I opened up CNN to find this sad front page story. It tells of Yale 2012 graduate Marina Keegan, who recently wrote an optimistic column in the Yale Daily News about being young and adventurous, forging forward with open eyes, and embracing the possibilites of life after college. Keegan, who according to the CNN piece had a job lined up at The New Yorker, died in a car accident days after the column’s publication date.
We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.
For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…
What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
Almost everyone I know has been five years lost at liberal arts sea. I feel as if I’ve been already lost twice in the waves of career confusion: joining a ballet company at 19; giving my everything to dance and then quitting dramatically one February night (would you know me to do it any other way?); graduating with promise from college and shooting straight for print journalism cred–all this to ultimately decide that dodging the magazine crypt keeper was altogether too scary for me, and that legal assistants made plenty more than editors.
Somewhere between my phase one 20’s and my phase two 20’s, job security, financial stability, and practicality came to underscore every decision I made. This, I felt, was growth. I’m pretty sure my parents had a nice dinner and celebrated when I stopped wanting to be a ballerina and when I quelled my dreams to be a writer (not entirely true–my parents are so supportive; they wanted my writing to go far). My problem was and always has been that I crave creativity while envying the stability that comes with more predictable jobs.
My husband’s a government man but his first love is writing. My dear friend Caitlyn has been trying with everything she’s got to find work as a librarian, and another close friend, Ryan, just graduated with degrees in history and Spanish. He is incredibly talented and passionate, but what’s immediately in store for him, I do not know.
My sister-in-law graduates in December with an English degree. That was me just a few years ago. With years of student newspaper and magazine internship experience, I thought I was ready to make writing my career. As it turned out, I was too scared to make the necessary sacrifices–mostly unpaid work and several, cross country moves–to make that happen. I was too scared to see how the industry played out as technology wagged its assertive finger in the face of print media. I was too scared to acknowledge that maybe, in pursuing something that came as naturally to me as ballet, I had once again dreamed too big. My talents, it seemed, were just too impractical.
I have no regrets. Speech pathology is not what I have always wanted to do, but it is what I want to do now. It is one of those jobs with a title and growing demand. It is, after all, a health profession. And in our society, that means something. I just wish that my writing days had coincided with a more magazine and newspaper friendly era, one in which I actually could have gotten some good writing and reporting in. I was comfortable leaving ballet because I had exhausted it. I had exhausted my body; I had exhausted my dream. The same is not true for my writing, which is why, I suppose, I currently write in this little space.
I’m not a fiction writer. I can’t spend hours working on a story like my talented husband. Writing to inform is all I’ve ever done, and even if my friends and family only occasionally glance at what I’m doing here, it helps my heart to keep that part of me going. I thank the world for the creatives around us.
Thank you Joshua Levs and Marina Keegan. Thanks for reminding me that people still pursue their creative dreams.