There has been a serious lack of posts in the past week and a half-ish, and I apologize for that! But as I said in my previous post, I was away, basically having (more or less) the time of my life on our group study tour on the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai. It was really one of the best trips I think I’ve taken in my life!
But before I update on all of that, I wanted to just impart with you a few thoughts I’ve been having over the past week.
I think I’m a sufferer of the “fear of missing out” (FOMO) syndrome – aka I hate knowing what things are going on at home, because I hate knowing that I’m probably missing out on so many great, awesome, hilarious things and jokes that my friends are sharing with each other. It’s almost better to keep me away from Facebook and other forms of social media because I honestly get very homesick and sad knowing how much fun everyone is having without me.
This is causing me some serious problems lately. All of college, I’ve been telling myself (and others) that I want to teach English abroad after I graduate. Now, I seriously still DO want to do that, but I can’t help but be somewhat held back by friends and family back home and the knowledge that there’s so much I’ll be missing out on. This year with be the second year that I’m missing both Thanksgiving AND Christmas – and how many more years like that can I have? I don’t mind it, and honestly I know it’s going to end up being just as good as home – but I love my family so much and we always have the best holidays together and it makes me really sad that I don’t get to spend it with them. I’m also having a lot of difficulty with the idea of leaving college. I do not think I am anywhere near ready to graduate yet. And maybe this is because NOT a lot of my friends have really graduated yet, but the thought of all of my friends still being at school having fun while I’m stuck in some dead-end corporate job just pains me. I can’t even try to think about it because it makes me so sad. Ew. 😦 Not just that, but HOW do people make friends post-college? Do you ever see your college friends again? It’s not like high school when you eventually return to your same hometown; sometimes people NEVER return to their Alma Mater. And if they do, it’s certainly not perfectly choreographed with 15 of your past closest friends. While I see the benefit and am excited for the prospect of having super successful friends all around the globe that I once hung out with in college, I still can’t shake the feeling that it will kind of suck to not be as close with them as I once was.
And I feel like it’s already happening, and I’ve barely been abroad for two months.
In addition to that, I’m sitting here freaking out because I haven’t even bothered to look for jobs yet (and I’m graduating in the SPRING!), nor have I had even the slightest amount of foresight to apply for grad school or anything like that, because (oh what’s new!) I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Why do I always find myself at this kind of a crossroad ever 2-3 years? I don’t understand.
Sigh. So that’s where I’M at in life; how about you?
But really, the point of this post was not to rant to anyone who is possibly still reading this even though it’s probably past that point of where people normally read. The point of this is to tell you all what comforts me when I can’t sleep at night and what makes me think that everything really WILL be OK.
I’m 22 years old. That may seem pretty old to all you 18/19/20 year old college students out there, and pretty young to all you 50-somethings out there. I think about it, and it’s quite likely that my life is 1/4 of the way over. I’ve lived more than 25% of my life on earth! What!?
However, I have a serious issue with this line of thinking. This seems to be a trend with people my age; people who graduate from high school and people who are currently in college. For whatever reason, people tend to associate no longer “living” and by “living” I mean going out, having a good time, living life to its fullest, YOLO, doing crazy hilarious things, etc., with graduating from college. Once you graduate, get a real job, get married, and pop out a kid or two, you are no longer “living”. For many people in my generation, it always seems like the end of college is the end of an era. When you graduate, your life as you know it is more or less over.
And while I can agree with that to an extent, it also infuriates me that this is often the line of thinking among young people. We never want to grow up. But why? Because we’re afraid of responsibility, doing the right thing, making strong commitments and setting down in one place? I’m not going to lie, all of that seems pretty scary to me. But why on EARTH should it mean that we’re not “living”? It’s just a different kind.
Taking it one step further, though, what on earth makes it necessary for ALL of us to follow this exact same path? Life is life – never do something that makes you feel as though it’s “over”. Life isn’t over until you are old and decaying inside and your body actually physically SAYS it’s over. No one says that we have to follow one specific formula. Society says we do. And yes, although it makes logical sense to do things in the sequence that society suggests, NO ONE says you have to.
And here’s where a few people I’ve met recently come into play.
I’m taking a class on US-Sino Relations here, something that has really only been studied since about the 1980s, when China opened its doors to the US and the rest of the Western world. Professor Ni, who teaches our class, is one of the very first founders of US-Sino relations. When he first came to America in 1980, he was forty years old. His life’s career, claim to fame, and the subject of his profession he didn’t even START studying until he was FORTY years old! Talk about a life change. A career change. Prior to going to the US for study, he worked as a pheasant in a labor camp for 10 years during the Cultural Revolution. If his life isn’t 厉害 (lihai, awesome; intense; awe-inducing), then I don’t know what is.
Another simply AMAZING person I’ve met here is Tenzin. Canadian-born, she ran away from home at age 17, joined Hell’s Angels, and ended up just traveling all over the world for most of the remainder of her life. She didn’t talk to her parents for seven years! Eventually, she found herself at a temple in India where she began to study Thangka art. She stayed at the temple for 10 years, eventually traveling to Tibet and Xining in Qinghai, where she now has a Thangka art studio where she continues to teach Thangka art. She’s lived with Tibetan people for 16 years! She originally was only supposed to stay at the temple for 6 months, and ended up staying 10 years. Why? Because why not? She had nothing better to do with her time – but now she’s a successful Thangka artist and has a truly unique world perspective. And no college degree. For her, “travel is the best education”.
I bring these two people up because lately, they are what gives me hope. Professor Ni reminds me that I can spend a whole 40 years of my life doing one thing, only to start something completely new and different for the next 40 years. And Tenzin reminds me that life is never over. You have to keep living, learning, traveling, and trying new things until you find something you like. For her, it was Tibet. But for others, it could be literally anything.
Both of them have vastly different life experiences, but if Tenzin can give up everything – friends, family, Christmas, and the like – to live in a Tibetan monastery for 10 years, then I think I can probably handle missing just one or two more. And the encouraging thing for me about Professor Ni is that maybe it WILL take 40 years to find my niche, to find what I truly love to do, or to finally decide I want to get a master’s degree or a PhD. I don’t have to decide right this instance. I have time. But in the meantime, I have a life to live. I have things to learn. I don’t need to make hasty decisions, because life is never over. Life is lived day by day, year by year, experience by experience. Just because you graduate college or close one chapter of your life, it doesn’t mean life is over forever. Heck, it doesn’t even mean the chapter is over. Maybe life isn’t a book. Maybe it doesn’t end. Maybe there’s no difference between being a “child” and being an “adult”. Maybe you don’t grow up. Maybe you just grow. Maybe life is a stream of consciousness poem. Maybe it’s one giant social experiment. Or maybe life just is.
Moral of the story? Maybe it’s never too late to start to live.