change, choice, college, decisions, experiencing, friendship, real world, Uncategorized

Why My Post-College Life Is About To Get Schooled

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Me and my college room/soulmate

When the time came, I wasn’t ready to graduate college. Emotionally ready, I mean. Logistically, I had the requirements met and the classes passed. Emotionally, however, I wasn’t the person who, four years prior, I imagined graduating from college. I imagined someone glorious, defined by significant scientific discovery, large-scale philanthropic impact, employment at her dream job, and having found a future husband. If I could have chosen when I’d graduate from college, it would certainly not have been as soon as I did. Hell, I might still be there. Despite lowering myself to the floor sobbing the night before, graduation day arrived and pushed me out the door. It tore me away from impeccable relationships, meandering academic exploration, and that lovely barrier to rules and consequence.

I entered the real world wearing a cloak of denial. In fact, in the year after college, I made the 2000-mile trek back to campus more frequently than I did in the following four years combined. With every visit, college felt a little less right for me. I had new passions, intellectual pursuits, daily routines, and relationships (while still maintaining the best ones from college). Still, I resented the fact that I hadn’t gotten to leave college on my own terms.

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basketball, decisions, Lakers, time

With Eight Seconds Left in Overtime

A couple weeks ago, the Lakers defeated the Suns in a three-overtime game, concluding what I would deem one of the more thrilling games of this NBA season. With 30 seconds left in regulation-time, Grant Hill of the Suns shot a three-pointer to tie the game. The first five-minute overtime was tied by the Suns’ Frye thanks to three successful free throws with 1.1 seconds left to play. In a similar free-throw situation at the end of the second overtime, theLakers’Gasol retied the game with twenty five seconds left to play. And finally, the Suns lost in a third overtime when they arguably took “too long” to release the ball in the fourteen seconds left to play. TheLakers won by two points. One shot.

It’s rare in sports for us to celebrate minor victories. Hill’s three pointer, for example. All we remember (especially as a biased Lakers fan) is that the Lakers “destroyed” the Suns in a 3-OT game.

Today, down by five with twenty seconds left in the game, the Lakers’ Lamar Odom made a beautiful three-pointer to bring a win back within reach. The shot reminded me just how much can happen in less than half a minute. Especially when it comes to sports. When the Lakers ended up losing, however, that three-pointer became part of the forgotten past.

In life, no matter what the journey looks like, the outcome is determined in just a matter of seconds. The last week of my grandfather’s life was not a steady decline. It was a roller coaster. In fact, the day before he passed away, we were told that he was doing better. That there was hope. Which is why when I received the dreaded call on a summery day in June, I was indignant. But I thought he was improving yesterday! What happened? I exclaimed as my eyes welled with tears.

Since December, I have been observing my brother’s quest for a summer internship. After tens of resume drops, for months he waited on responses. Increasingly discouraged my brother mentioned to me that the outlook seemed grim. Finally, three months later, he heard back from one company. The deadline for him to respond to the offer from this company was utilized to accelerate a response from another. And this for another. After months of waiting, in a single day, my brother was contacted for the first time, first-round interviewed, final-round interviewed, and extended an offer by the company at which he will finally be interning.

Considering the seemingly obvious benefits of taking your time with big decisions, the rapid decisions made by these organizations was eye-opening to me. But as I am beginning to realize, sometimes the benefit lies in who makes the big decision sooner. In the end, time is the ultimate decision-maker. As it becomes limited, it trumps every and all other facets of a decision. Simple as that.

In a similar vain, that’s why it can seem like large, established corporations with long-term plans and steady track records of success can feel like they are playing catch-up with small scrappy start-ups. Because start-ups are born losing, with twenty seconds to win. With their only goal being to defeat time.

This recent post in one of my favorite blogs describes how people with last names that begin with letters late in the alphabet jump at opportunities and make more immediate decisions than their A-M counterparts. Turns out having to stand at the back of the line or being mentioned last in roll call during all those younger school years actually has long-standing effects. I can point out a number of times I’ve had to work alone when everyone else had partners. Or gotten last pick at free-time activities. Tired of being last, understanding the disadvantages of waiting too long, M-Zers apparently waste less time hemming and hawing.

Today, as I watched the last twenty seconds of the Lakers game, I was frustrated. Upset. Why didn’t they have this intensity and drive to win before? When they actually had time? They obviously have the skill and desire to win. It just seemed dormant until the last minute.

When we could actually have control, why do we let ourselves become victims of time? Because, as with most things in life, we don’t realize how precious something is until it is limited, or worse, gone. But the goods news, as described by the Last Name Effect, is that we can learn from the times we’ve lost out. We’re not forever doomed.

By living each moment like there is 1.1 seconds left in overtime, by learning to perform well under pressure before the pressure exists, we can transfer control back into our hands, and more importantly, set ourselves up for a sure-fire victory every game we play.

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change, decisions, graduation

Another Turning Point; A Fork Stuck in the Road

For the most part, the “next step” in my life has always been pretty clear cut. I’ve sort of always had a vision for myself — goals, wishes, motivations — and there was usually just one option that made the most sense. Most of the time, there wasn’t much of a choice anyway. School for example. My 8th grade “graduation” ceremony only meant the start of high school. State Compulsory School Attendance Laws didn’t exactly give me much leeway until the age of 18. And well, college wasn’t exactly optional after a college-preparatory school like K through life.

I’ve heard that a majority of students change their major at least three times during college. I changed it once: from undeclared to Psychology. While college is a time for social and academic exploration, my exploration was within the limits of a foundational and sector requirements. And throughout my four years, I have taken pride in the fact that you can really do “anything” with a major like Psychology. It’s pretty characteristic of my personality, since I’m always reluctant to close doors (figurative).

Well, you sure can do “anything” with a major like Psychology, which is why I recently found myself making what I have identified to be the most difficult decision of my life so far. I quite literally was standing at a fork in the road. A rope in the most intense of tug-of-war games. Two completely different paths with incomparable end results, no one objectively “better” than the other. The more advice I received, the more I realized that I was the only person who could make the right decision for myself.

For the first time in my life, I found myself trying to think into the vast open space that is the rest of my life. Completely uncharted territory. Where do I see myself (geographically and emotionally) in x years? What doors will be opened? What doors will be closed? What types of feedback will I receive?

As I sit here reflecting on my decision, it is clear to me that there was no right or wrong. While the guy sitting next to me may have made the completely opposite choice, at this point in my life, I know in my heart that this was right for me.

More than anything, this experience has forced me to think about who I am as a person more than I ever have before. I learned more than I have learned in any class. Ever. It was almost like meeting a new person. Is this what the rest of life is going to be like? If so, I’m pretty damn excited.

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childhood, decisions, emotions, facades

Foolish Heart

I consider myself to have a pretty strong hold of my emotions. I am not flighty or especially over- or under-sensitive. Though current research in Neuroeconomics would probably tell us otherwise, I am, on the whole, rational about my goals, motivations, and choices. So naturally, I am always taken by surprise when my emotions trick me. When, with an air of superiority, my emotions laugh in my face, mocking me for thinking that I was in control.

In the fifth grade, something awful happened to my group of friends. A group of friends that had, since kindergarten, been on the same soccer team (The Red Panthers, that’s who we appreciate!) and traded germs and gummy worms on the playground year after year. But that year, there was trouble in paradise. The weird part is that it just sort of crept up on us.

Names changed to protect the identity of people with whom I now connect and share my life via Facebook:

One day on the playground, Emily created an imaginary person named Square (Emily really liked geometry? I am still unsure why she named a person after a shape, but to each her own). “Nobody likes Square,” she told us. She told us horrible stories about Square to the point that none of us could ever imagine being friends with Square, or even a person like Square, for that matter.

A week or so after the conception of Square, Emily told me a secret. One of many secrets I wish I had never been told. “Square,” she said to me with that mature air that most ten-year-olds can only hope for, “is Gina.” Gina, one of the other girls in our group. I was shocked. I was in utter disbelief that there was a disconnect within my picture perfect group of friends. The group then split in half, the Pro- and Anti-Square (Gina) camps. I found myself caught in between (some things never change). What followed were frequent lunch-time meetings with our teacher who tirelessly tried to reconcile a group of friends who she had seen evolve from the ripe age of five.

Things were never the same between us, and after that year, some of us moved to the middle school next door, some of us stayed at the elementary school, and one of us moved on to a private school a couple miles away (K-life).

To this day, I still grapple with the fact that Square was completely fabricated. What had started out as a joke, as a figment of Emily’s imagination had taken the form of a real human being through Gina. And it could have been anyone, really. Emily and Gina had been the best of friends before the incident, but as Emily’s character “Square” became more and more real, she finally decided to give it the identify of someone who actually existed, and someone she knew well (think Steppenwolf).

And I have (as I’m sure we all have) continued to be a pawn in this game of emotions as I’ve grown older.

My first semester of college was a struggle. I was meeting interesting people and enjoying my classes, but I simply had not yet “found my place.” To be blunt, I was not happy. But I didn’t want to worry my parents or friends, so, when I went home for Fall Break in October, I told them that I absolutely loved college and that everything was going swimmingly. And repeating my statement only made me believe it (oh how I love cognitive dissonance). Or so I thought: As I walked to the gate to board my plane back to college, tears started to stream from my eyes. And I couldn’t stop them.

This was disconcerting for me on two levels. Firstly, I thought I had forgotten how to cry, which, clearly, was not the case, so I was generally surprised. And more importantly, I was nervous that I had no control over my emotions. I was not completely content with college, and my emotions weren’t going to let me think otherwise. I could lie to others, but I simply could not lie to myself.

And with each day that passes by, I’m coming to realize that’s what it comes down to. We all have our facades — of happiness, of confidence, of satisfaction, the list could go on forever. And while these feelings may often be founded on something true and genuine, sometimes we might just be trying to fool others. When does a joke stop being a joke? When does disappointment turn into misery? When does apathy turn into concern?

This lack of control over our emotions doesn’t necessarily mean you need to discount yourself, your actions, or the emotions you think you feel. Sure, they say that everybody is somebody’s fool. Just, don’t be your own.

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decisions, slowing down, time

Slow Down, You Crazy Child

Time is precious, and we never forget that. Not even for a second. We grab bites to eat, we take accelerated courses, we run errands, we honk at slow cars, we’re fast walkers, and faster talkers. Take the iPhone 3GS (the only measure of anything these days). What does S stand for? In short, we’re living in a world where we’ve only got time for 140 characters. And sometimes, not even that.

As we sprint around life’s race track, we hurdle over the rose bushes that we should be stopping to smell. Thrilling as it is, sometimes I can’t help but question our species’ need for speed. At some point you begin to wonder if the fast track is really worth it. It always comes down to the age-old question: 20 dollars now or 40 dollars four weeks from now? Try as we might to convince ourselves of our refined “human” tendencies, our animal instinct for instant gratification is always brimming right beneath the surface.

But consider: People who set their fork down between bites consume seventy calories less at each meal than their roadrunner counterparts. Those who read slower tend to commit more to memory than their speed-reading competition. And the best part (read: worst part) is that the fastest of us aren’t even breathing correctly (being constantly on-the-go results in our breathing with short shallow breaths rather than the deeper healthy breaths that allow your stomach to come out a little with each inhalation), a cardiovascular disaster waiting to happen.

As you run out the door in the morning, speeding seems like a wonderful idea. But being pulled over for a traffic violation may cause you to reconsider. And end up being doubly late to work.

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