There will be a time when I transition to thinking in the calendar year and not the school year calendar, but for now, August has always been the time of new beginnings. Mid-August would always be that time after internships were over and the school year was about to begin, and after a day or two of resting at home I would always be restless again and count down the days until I could start a brand new year with brand new classes and brand new notebooks. Last year (2015) was similar; even though I was no longer starting school again, I moved to a new apartment in a new city and started my first new adult job. This newness kept me going for a while, and when it seemed like mundane life was starting to kick in, I began scheduling travels and escapes, so that I would always be looking forward to experiencing something new (if any of you know me remotely well, you know that my greatest nightmare is being bored..or “boring”.)
So it’s now August 2016, and what now? I’m in the same apartment as last year, in (basically) the same job (although my role has changed). I’m not particularly looking forward to my second – and last- year of grad school with any zest, as it’s part time and doesn’t *quite* feel like “real” school. Next year, August 2017, will probably be quite different – potentially a move to a new city as M is applying to grad school, certainly a new apartment, and a newly-conferred Master’s degree. But for now – it’s basically the same as last year. And to me, that’s suffocating.
And so, now these few weeks are those inevitable “transition” weeks once again, as I just finished my summer classes and have a few weeks of “nothing” (and by nothing, I mean going about my normal full-time finance job and keeping up with my extracurricular organizations). I’ve been excitedly living like a real, “normal” adult (balancing full time work with 3-4 classes a semester, full extracurricular involvement, and a decent social life is HARD! and not normal, lol) and slowly checking off all the little things on my bucket list that I’ve been wanting to do in the city. I’ve had wonderful social plans every single day so far, catching up with all the friends in the city who sometimes I’ve had to say “no” to because of classwork or finals. And, as a result, I’ve had some time to reflect. Most importantly –
What’s actually important to me?
As I begin the MBA application brainstorming process ( 4ish years too early……..lol…), I’ve had some downtime to organize my “life story” and think about where I want to go from now. And there’s a few conclusions I’ve come to, all of which will define my next year (which you’re welcome to follow as I keep updating this blog with my travels and life!)
1. Who actually cares about my life?
Spending time with friends these few weeks have made me realize who the friends I actually look forward to spending time with are. To this end, I am currently undergoing a (temporary) social media cleanse where I have deleted the FB, Instagram, and Snapchat apps on my phone, and staying in touch with the positive relationships in my life in other ways instead. Once I come back, I hope to use social media as a tool for happiness and lifestyle promotion, rather than scrutiny. Why should I care if you think my posts are over-filtered, or under-filtered, or I’m eating too much, or too little, or if my dress is too revealing, or too conservative? For my true friends, I will certainly hear about their recent beautiful ramen lunch or random gym routine some other way, and vice versa.
2. What activities challenge and add happiness to my life?
In line with the aforementioned social media cleanse, this (and getting rid of other time-sucking, useless things) frees up time for things that actually matter. Example: instead of scrolling through FB while waiting for the train, I’ve started reading again. In the past two days, I’ve finished one book I’ve been meaning to start in the past year, and I hope to continue reading newspapers and books on my commute/during my downtime before bed/whenever I can. There are also so many other things I’ve put on the backburner that I need to start making time for, and it has to be a conscious choice. The “I have no time” excuse is stupid. The “I’m bored” mentality is also stupid: there’s so much to do and improve on still! A few things I’ve been wanting to do (or continue to do), unrelated to travel:
Playing piano again.
Learning how to create videos (of travel).
Focusing on really adding value to my extracurricular involvements, particularly AsylumConnect, the Penn Alumni program, and the current presidential campaign.
Starting my philanthropic involvements (I recently started my first patronage – of the Lincoln Center! One of my childhood dreams was, and is, to one day sit on the board of a major cultural institution, so I’m glad to have to opportunity to have a trial run in my “young professional” years)
Marathon training (again).
Educating myself on world history.
The list could continue, but there’s only so much one can accomplish after work/school and on weekends! I think this is enough to focus on for now, especially if I want to do them well.
3. Who challenges me?
I’ve always mentally felt a few years older (this doesn’t mean smarter though!) than my peer group — I suppose this happens when you become financially independent many years earlier than normal. I think it’s increasingly important, especially as I am no longer in an academic environment, to constantly surround myself with people who challenge me – not only intellectually, but in life– and to seek out those interactions that push me rather than stunt my growth. There are friends who will constantly adventure (aka try out random things) with me, or friends from whom I learn something new every time I speak with them, or friends who simply offer guidance and support in my quest to “real adulthood”. Those relationships are the ones I hope to nourish and keep seeking as I navigate this strange transition year (and the ones I hope to take on my budget traveling this upcoming year!)