Hello, Senior Year.
We have known each other for about four weeks, and you are not as daunting as you seemed. I realize I have unabashedly overwhelmed myself until Winter Break, but, alas, we English majors love to kill ourselves for our arts.
It does not seem as though it was four years ago when I began applying for college. As an eager senior in high school, I envisioned the world as a crystal ball with a clear path to direct me to success filled with glorious travels as a journalism sensation. I gazed at photography adorned with color and thematic elements within National Geographic accompanied by lyrical descriptions of rolling hills and vibrant cultures I only viewed within the confinements of those pages. I told everyone, “I want to end up somewhere between Sex and the City and National Geographic.”
What I had not realized, though, were the extreme implications I would face as I declared a major in Magazine Journalism. Basic news bored me, and athleticism bewildered me. I was neither a connoisseur nor a lover of either.
I soon found myself surrounded by students in the English Education major. For almost a year, I felt as though I belonged. I felt as though I had always longed to become an educator in the subject area I hold most dear. Most people who love reading and writing in the English subject also tend to love school, and I knew I loved all three. It was not long, though, until I realized my next problem: I do not have to teach at the secondary level to eventually teach in a college setting. They are different in ways more immense than even the loathing high school students possess for standardized tests. My goal of somehow embodying Katherine Watson from Mona Lisa Smile was no longer within my grasp or even within my sight, and somehow, along the way, I lost my footing. I needed to regain my stature.
I was stuck.
Losing myself in the stories of other cultures and backgrounds astounded me because I knew even though people around the world will eternally disagree on religion and politics, the world will still agree on love and empathy.
I held on to this belief, dropped the education concentration, and remained within the English Department. Within this realm, I found people who read the same stories I had grown to love and people who adored being able to connect with others through the written language. I did not have a plan or even a rough draft or even an outline or even a sketch of what I wanted to do after college. I just knew I wanted to study English. Because I did not have a firm idea about which concentration to pursue, I chose English Studies. It provided a plethora of areas to specialize in, and I felt as though I were standing in line at the grocery store trying to decide which candy to choose before I could finally start placing my items on the conveyer belt.
Public policy intrigued me. The idea of practicing law thrilled me. Social justice kept me going. A degree in English is actually desired by law schools. Cognitive thinking as well as the ability to write critically basically band together to form the prime image of an aspiring lawyer. I wanted to help people, and in the practice of law, I thought I would constantly be able to do so. I began looking at Social Justice and Human Rights programs around the country, and I narrowed my options for when I would finally apply.
Then I realized my mistake.
Throughout the excitement and the planning, I had not realized how much I had restricted myself. I possessed such an intricate idea of which type of law I wanted to practice—I had already ruled out being a court room attorney—and I did not know if it was even worth it. It was more than a grave uncertainty of whether or not I would be able to put myself through the program. Rather, it was more of a distaste. Did I really want to put myself through law school? Had my drive to pursue this career faded like an old pair of dark wash bellbottoms?
I did not, but I took the LSAT anyway.
The score I wanted was what I needed to go to the local schools—the more prestigious schools, such as NYU, were too expensive anyway—but even retrieving this score did not arouse my passion for policy or law. I simply realized I had turned a small idea into a grand dream. It was not only too far out of my reach, but I realized I no longer lusted for the chance of working with a grand human rights organization. I began to wonder if somewhere along the way I had passed up an opportunity or if I had accidentally thrown away all the cards, and, with them, my fate.
Now, I am back to you, Senior Year.
You have shown me how to relish in the unknown and how to understand life does not grant us a playbook. I now know I do not need to study in a major in which I will be trained for a specific career. I understand the glorifying feeling of simply not knowing where I will be in less than one year. I can write shitty essays and never submit them to journals. I can create characters who will never appear in even one scene of a novel. I can explore literary journalism and travel writing and book reviews and fiction and nonfiction for the sole purpose of simply being intrigued in what may unravel.
I can take eighteen credit hours filled with courses in which I watch documentaries and discuss feminism and read poetry and analyze literature and write personal essays, and, frankly, I have never been happier. I have never been more exhausted, but I am happier, nonetheless.
I even took a class in which I interned with a literary agent and helped with the Midwest Writers Workshop. I did that for a class. For a grade, I learned about the intricate process of submitting queries, listening to pitches, and reading manuscripts. I learned how to read agents and understand whether or not they truly felt compelled by a novel.
I learned how to turn my love of reading and my shared empathy with writers into a career.
I remember that six-year-old little girl creating a picture book for a first grade assignment. Underneath the “I want to be a ______ when I grow up,” I wrote “writer” in what was probably well-crafted scrawl. I was a perfectionist. Maybe, instead of throwing away all the cards, I kept this one card in between pages of a book or in a pocket in a backpack. Now, I think about it when I begin to feel overwhelmed or consumed with doubt.
Senior Year, you have shown me how to embrace the unexpected and how to keep my options open. When we part, I hope I can enter the world with the same enthusiasm you gave me. You passed down a variety of tools I can use to tackle the projects I know I will encounter and the obstacles I will most likely face. I understand the importance of forming relationships with people for only a short amount of time. I have learned to consult professors with questions and concerns because they have been exactly where I am now. I understand what it means to reach an ambiguous end, and I also understand it is okay.
Thank you, Senior Year.
Lauren is a Ball State University alumna with a Bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. She enjoys breakfast for dinner with a side of literary enjoyment.