And we’re done.
On Monday, I handed in the final for my Islam in India class, putting an end to my four years of academic study at UC Santa Barbara.
It’s sunk in. I’m all done with college.
It’s true that these four years go by quickly. They’ve kept me busy, but I couldn’t have asked for a better college experience. Most people are quick to point out that during their college years, their best learning happened outside the classroom. I’d say that’s true in my life as well, but I don’t want to do a diservice all the awesome things I’ve learned through academic means. Sure the work was at times tedious, and there were plenty of classes where I had to force myself to read the last thing I felt like reading at the moment, but looking at the big picture, I got to learn mostly about things I’ve truly been interested in. I’ve also had my interest piqued about a number of other items. Sharing a world where people would sacrifice greatly for an educational opportunity that vaguely resembles the one I’ve had, I can’t help but think about the things I’ve gotten to study about and learn over the past few years in gratitude. The topics have been as varied as Haiti and Aristide, India and Ghandi, laws of attraction and self-disclosure, human rights violations, mass media law, Marshall McLuhan, intercultural communication, Middle Eastern Cooking, acting, ontology, Japanese horror films, medieval music history, and the Italian mafia. I understood the rough idea of how things worked that I never considered too in depth before- things like the internet or global economy. Most of my learning has happened outside the classroom, but there was a good amount of learning in class as well. I wouldn’t have spent my money on it, otherwise.
People always joke around about college being a time of poor decision making. People speak tongue-in-cheek about nights that just might’ve been spent in overindulgence and irresponsibility. While I’ve been living a life of spontaneity and awesome stories, I think all these have spawned from good decision making. The decision to truly live life is in fact, a decision, and a good one. The mantra “poor decisions make good stories” is misleading. Overindulgence and self-satisfaction don’t make good stories at all. Self-sacrifice and overcoming obstacles, on the other hand do. And these require active decisions to wake up and truly live.
That right there might’ve been one of the biggest things I’ve learned through experience in college. I’ve made a share of bad decisions and mistakes over the past few years, and those ended up teaching me valuable lessons. But good decisions have also taught me lessons and have given me good stories to go along with them.
Here are just a few of the bigger and better decisions I’ve made during college that have helped made this an unforgettable four years:
Learning how to properly guard my heart from being strictly controlled by emotions. I went into school a bit of a hopeless romantic. It made for great sentimental mushy stuff, but in a real relationship, it just did not work out in a healthy way. It created a dependency meant for God that was too much for another person with their own issues to deal with. I thought I was after relationships, but really I was just in it for the bells and whistles that go along with relationships. The heart of a relationship, sacrifice and commitment, were still foreign to me. Learning how to take things slowly and to put the other person first helped prepare me for a real relationship. One with less glitter and more guts.
Using the time to fully explore my faith and my doubts. There are big questions in life about purpose and whether or not there’s more to life than what we can sense with our eyes and ears. I find it hard to live a fully engaged life if you don’t know what you’re living for. I’ve met people who are content to fully accept another person’s beliefs as their own uncritically, or to put exploring what they truly believe on the backburner. “Yeah, I’ve been raised religious, and I guess I still kind of am, but you know, I’m in college,” is just an example of a common sentiment I hear. Maybe it’s that our age is more out of touch with the realities of death and pain, but those who have experienced those things know it’s not enough to just listen passively to arguments. It did take going through loss and depression for me to take my faith from a philosophical opinion to a life’s commitment. I think many of us have experienced or are experiencing a pain that begs we explore our questions. I discourage using cheap pleasures to distract yourself from the urgency of such questions.
For the record, once I rediscovered my own faith, it served as an engine for a life that continues to run full steam. I’ve built many rich, rewarding relationships, traveled to diverse lands, and collected a bunch of worthy experiences. None of these would have any significance if I couldn’t relate them to the heart of what I believe.
Travelling as much as humanly possible. Time, money, health. They say you will always have two of these three necessities to travel. I say, once you have two, you can find a way to ninja out the third one. In my case, it was researching how financial aid could take care of me abroad. I’ve gotten to live in Italy and Argentina, fully absorbing what life could’ve been like had I been born in another spot around the world. It was a brilliant experience, and you grow personally and bond with others incredibly when you take a trip. Colleges usually have great study abroad options, but even if it’s through some summer internship or a self-made volunteer opportunity, go for it.
Living flexibly. If you want to pursue your dreams, it’s going to take some risks and sacrifices. One of those risks and sacrifices are just your own physical comforts and senses of security. I hope to do work that helps promote social justice on a global level. To me, that end is more important than the size of a paycheck. That’s a sacrifice, but one that I feel is worth it. I live off the belief that God cares enough about sparrows so that he makes sure they get exactly what they need to eat each day, he’ll get my back, too. No need to worry about tomorrow, when I’ve got everything I could possibly need today. You’ll also be surprised about how little you need in terms of actual physical possessions to live a fully engaged life. It is surprisingly minimal.
In the quarter between my two sessions abroad, I wound up bouncing around on friends’ couches, week by week. I lived incredibly minimally. Basically, out of my trunk and a suitcase. What happened, though, is that I became close with each of my hosts as I spent a week on their couches all over Santa Barbara. Those were the early steps in the formation in some of my most incredible and valuable relationships today.
Not worrying about a career but finding a calling. Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer, then the president, then a genetic engineer, then an actor, then a journalist. Aspects of all these ambitions are still present in the route I find myself on, but my concerns have outgrown just considering how each of these jobs could benefit me. A lot of people my age experience the famous quarterlife crisis where you aren’t sure what direction to take your life and career in. First of all, those are two different things. Second, it’s simple. Don’t look at what your career can provide for you, but look for how your career can be used to provide for others. The way I’ve heard it put best is this: find where your deepest passions and deepest skills meet the world’s deepest needs. Write out a game plan then go do.
I continue to be amazed by everything that’s happened over the past four years. I know it’s been a process with highs and lows, but I’m so thankful it happened. School and life are great teachers, and I hope to apply these lessons daily.