Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I've been doing a lot of reflecting lately, letting my mind settle on events and periods of the past which it normally only skims, like to recall the address of my first job in high school for a job application (so unnecessary, by the way). Lately the image in my rearview mirror is Drake University, my would-be alma mater. The memory of this place which I entered so full of unbridled hope and innocent dreams as an 18-year-old Girl from the North Country is a complicated one for me; one that I have not spent much time looking back on, because, well, I was busy moving forward. But in fact, now I'm beginning to see what it represents in my life: my ambition to strike out into unknown territory and seek a world and life of my own making. I did not know a single person at Drake, I'd never even been to Iowa. Rather than feeling unnerved, I was thrilled. In my mind, this was where my journalist-self would establish her roots, and blossom. I imagined it as a short pit stop on my way to bigger things in bigger cities.
Instead, what it wound up being was an even shorter pit stop on my way to bigger universities (in bigger cities). The decision to leave Drake was relatively easy (my friendships there were, by and large, the biggest loss), yet in the wake of my undergraduate education, I have often caught myself thinking about this place; what it means now, and what it might have meant had I stayed. I'm aware; this is a dangerous and some might say pointless game to play, so I limit my "What If's" to just a few. And really, its only through observing the progress and achievements of my fellow classmates and friends that naturally, I've begun to wonder if my path might have been similar. I've been tracking their progress via Facebook which I'll admit is kind of weird but not so weird that I won't admit I'm doing it. Many of the folks with whom I sat through David Wright's Journalism 101 class are now doing pretty amazing things and I can't help but feel in awe of the fact that they're doing it. It, meaning the exact thing they (and I) set out to do when we set our wobbly feet on Drake's campus four years ago. Maybe my admiration is simply caused by the twisty, prickly path I ending up following, but I believe its more than that. Because how many college grads out there are doing anything that even slighltly resembles what they intended to do six months, a year, even two years out of school? Even nursing and engineering students are having a tough time making that happen. So, I raise my glass to those Drake grads, and fondly remember all the glasses we raised together during that funny, fumbling, freshman year.
One other note to make about Drake. During our freshman invocation, the University President gave us one piece of advice: Be really adaptable. It's simple. Not too impressive-sounding. Yet, even though I never would adapt to life at Drake, I carried that lesson with me to the next two universities and believe that now more than ever, there has never been a greater need for adaptability. The successes - and failures - of Gen Y will be measured almost entirely by our capacity to act as chameleons in our professional lives, to not only adapt to change, but most usefully, to anticipate it. (Please read the terrific article on job-hopping by Rebecca Modite, particularly if you're feeling down in the unemployed-dumps. Did you read it? Good, now grab your swords and fight the nay-saying hordes!)
So looking back, good ol' Drake and I weren't the failure I once imagined us to be. There's a lot to be pulled from that time, and I will no longer be so quick to simply skim the surface of those memories and lessons, including how to adapt to situations and surroundings. And life. Yes, I'd say that's certainly something to toast.