Rare occasions warrant a post that I consider personal. If you've read carefully through the years then you could infer about as much about my personal life as I care to share. But graduating college is a unique time for most of us to reflect on. What makes this time particularly different from all other "milestone" achievements in our lives is that we've all taken such different paths and had unique experiences down the nebulous road to adulthood. And although graduating college isn't necessarily a prerequisite to maturity, it certainly is a push in the right direction. (I think of it as analogous to standing at the edge of a train platform or a balcony high above ground, and then having some one grab your shoulders from behind to scare you). There are also those of us who have taken the scenic route to adulthood-- the more of experiential learners-- and those who might never choose to take the "college" route at all. So, for today I'll make an exception and not so much share with you about myself as express my sincere gratitude for the past four improbable and fortunate years I've spent in college.
Just before I moved to New York my long-time trainer and friend, who was a native New Yorker, passed on some valuable advice. He told me that "New York City is a place where something is happening every minute of everyday. Anyone can pretend to be important and busy with something, but choosing what you make yourself busy with will be the toughest part." I immediately thought he was referring to drugs or getting involved with the wrong crowd. I remembered what he told me and have began to see that he meant so much more by it than I once perceived.
I used to believe this was a city where people came to change, whether they liked it or not, and whether it was for better or worse. For the most part this has been true for the close friends I've kept during my time here. After all, I've certainly changed. The people around me have changed too. We sometimes felt a little smarter, a little more hopeful or determined. At other times we were tempered by harsh realities and realized that we were neither of the above. But those times taught us the most about each other and the type of friends and people we actually are.
By no means is this idea "New York-centric". I think anyone between the ages of 18 and 25 regardless of geographic location is going to change in some way or another. At least they should hope they do . But all too often we use the idea of this inevitable tendency towards developing our "self identities" and try to force ourselves (desperately,) unnaturally into something far from it. Consequently those people forget those around them. College has taught me one important lesson, perhaps the only important lesson or Rule of the Game that matters at this age.
"self-discovery" is overrated.
As I've been surrounded by people with such diverse backgrounds and stories and perspectives, if all I learned in college was about myself then I would have considered this time wasted. Learning people and how to appreciate them for the things that make them honest, humble and sincere is a lesson I will carry far beyond my time in this city and this part of my life.
The process of finding one's "self" is inherently selfish and frankly a naive concept. Because you can't see who you are by yourself- without knowing who and what you are not. I'm not talking about the way people dress or the music in their iPods or what they order to drink at the bar... or even if they are at the bar at all! I'm referring to the kindness, tolerance and consideration that all too often escapes us as we struggle to "find" ourselves in college.
As my days in New York City are numbered, I am fortunate to have spent time surrounded by people who have understood these indispensable tenets too. And as I look forward to what I hope will be a promising start to my post-graduate career in Washington DC, I remember the advice a great man gave me who made his career in the nation's capitol:
"Think hard. Choose wisely. Feel deeply. Build positive relationships with the people around you. And never stop thinking of the future"
Whenever I have to move or leave a place for a long time I make sure to remind people that "I never forget a friend" and that I mean it in all sincerity. I say this because, as I've elaborated earlier, people change-- and that's okay. But as long as those people and you (because I consider the followers of my blog my friends) know that, then we can bypass the social norm of "growing apart". We'll pick up right where we left off and share stories, have a drink or share a meal. But until then...