There are a lot of people I make fun of. Among them are eternal students: the kids who love education so much and fear the real world to such an extent that they never leave school.
In a cliche Hollywood twist, however, I have discovered that I, too, am an eternal student (or at least have the potential to be one). It’s not because I fear the real world, though. In fact, it’s because I’ve been so obsessed with the “real world” that I’m rebelling against it.
See, I’ve always loved school. I love to learn. If I didn’t have any other responsibilities, I would take classes forever.
I refused to admit it, though, because as I’ve mentioned before, I am practical and make good decisions.
I thought following dreams that didn’t involve a stable paycheck and a 401K were a foolish waste of time. Being happy and passionate is for naive idiots, after all.
But then I woke up.
I realized that safe was essentially the same as boring.
And so I found myself sitting at the beginning of my last semester of college at 22-years-old, learning that I’d deluded myself into thinking my life would be “successful” because I didn’t fall into any of those pesky traps called dreams that make people crazy and give them purpose and excitement.
So what had I done instead? Worked countless, exhausting jobs? Sacrificed a social life? Turned down amazing study abroad trips?
I could see my life ahead of me as clearly as if I’d already lived it. Five, ten, twenty years down the road (it doesn’t matter when), I would be working painfully predictable days making just enough to get by but never enough to go anywhere or do anything more than camping or a trip to the state capital.
After wallowing in self-pity over a pint of Ben&Jerry’s, I snapped myself out of it and decided I was going to find a way out the boring mess I’d gotten myself into.
I hated the future I saw before me, and I knew that if I didn’t do something drastic – something crazy – soon, I might never do something drastic again.
So I asked myself what I wanted. The answer was simple and immediate:
But I only had a few months of college left.
That’s when a seed a friend of mine planted a couple years earlier took root. This friend had recently returned from Ireland after spending a year there getting a Master’s degree. I saw her excitement from application to arrival back in the States. It had looked like a fairy tale to me, but suddenly, from my new perspective, it looked obtainable.
I knew I wanted to continue studying history (European history), so why not go to Europe? It saves me a trip to archives that I would have to make regardless. Plus, I get to live abroad for a year.
I haven’t been outside of the country (or much of anywhere) since my family adopted my brother from Russia when I was 6. So this is a big deal for me.
For the first time, graduation didn’t look like a terrifying black hole of doom where fun goes to die. Instead, it started to look like a bright, daring, swashbuckling world of adventure where no one (not even myself) could tell me that going to graduate school abroad was a bad idea.
…even though I had no previous plan, savings, or preparation of any kind.
Explaining my new idea to my parents was fun.
But fortunately, they’re very supportive.
So now, I face the future with new hope.
I remind myself along the way why I’m doing what I’m doing.
When I tell people about it, I hope it comes out elegant and sophisticated.
But I know myself too well.