It’s official!!!! I am riding across the country with 4k For Cancer this summer! I don’t know which ride I will be on yet, but I am excited! =D
I am sitting here in Musselman Library, at a table in the middle of the first floor, crying. I should have known this would happen. I only write about Poppop on rare occasions, but when I do I can never fight back the tears. Today I was writing some essay responses for why I want to participate in 4k For Cancer, and it just hit me. Originally, I did not want to do this program. I did not want to talk about cancer. I just wanted to go on a cross-country adventure. Although it lacked some of the adventure of forging my own path, I thought I might apply anyway. After all, I could compromise with this program: less adventure for less planning much higher affordability.
But not anymore. I cannot sit down and write about him without a handful of tissues. Perhaps this is the right thing for me. Riding solo would be an exercise in personal development and self-understanding, but so too can 4k For Cancer. Maybe it will not be all about the “adventure.” Maybe it will be about coming to terms with my own story.
I do what I want.
I say that a lot. In some respects it is definitely true, and everyone who knows me understands that well. But do I really do what I want? It seems more and more like I do not. It is sometimes hard to notice it when a lot of the things I “want” to do are also things I should do: get good grades, go to college, do something with my life. But to what extent do I actually want to do these things? Is my want just a product of perceived necessity?
I have (almost) always paid attention in school, even when I was bored with the material. I work hard, even when my job does not require nor incentivize it. I get good grades and am usually near the top of every class even though I could get by on much less. I take on additional responsibility despite an already overflowing schedule. These are all things I should do. But do I really want them?
In a year I will be graduating college. I will be 22 years old with no family to support and no pressing need for a job. Volunteer organizations and alternative programs like AmeriCorps provide thousands of ways I put off entering the workforce or furthering my education. But in many ways these opportunities are “fallbacks.” With fellowships like the Fulbright and Marshall I could shoot for the moon and get fully funded to study abroad and perform research at an institution of my choice. Yet I really don’t like research. I want hands-on experience. I dream of traveling the world, meeting tons of people, and leaving mainstream American life behind for a while. I want to learn what no books can teach and live like no normal job could permit.
If I forsake this opportunity to do something different will I become wrapped up in my career and never return to these dreams? Will I one day look back in sadness at opportunities forgone? I feel like most of my life I have always done what I should do, sometimes at the expense of what I want to do. I’m not sure I even know how to change…
Advocacy. Lobbying. What is it? Do I believe in it? Is it something I could do? Is it something I would want to do?
I’ve been spending some free time this summer researching different possibilities for after Gettysburg. There are internships, fellowships, master’s programs, and of course the job market. I’ve surveyed a large variety of opportunities in many different areas and one thing I’ve seen is advocacy, principally environmental advocacy. But I’m skeptical. I’m skeptical because when I hear “advocacy” I am reminded of student organizations here at Gettysburg. And when I consider the involvement, activism, and success of our campus clubs I’m not exactly thrilled.
So this is what I want to figure out: what is advocacy, how does it work, and where does it fit into the larger picture? Obviously advocacy means generating awareness and promoting a topic, but what all does that entail. And then of course there are other questions. Where does the funding come from? Who are we trying to convince? Do I believe in the cause I’m selling?
I’m not sure what I think of advocacy. I’m sure several alumni are working in the environmental advocacy field and I’m going to try to get in contact with some of them. My gut feeling is that it is not something I would want to do myself, but is definitely important to understand. Perhaps working as an advocate might be a good short-term opportunity in a longer career path.
I find it interesting that this is really the ultimate question of my life, and has been for years. These three simple words rival all those other weighty three words combos: I love you. I miss you. I am sorry. If you stop and think about it, What is Important? defines how we use those other admissions. They simple act of relatively valuing the things in our life completely defines everything that is and will ever be. Is success more important than love? Will it always be this way, or just while we are young and flexible? Actually, if you think about it shouldn’t we dedicate more of youth’s flexibility and vigor to love? After all, I hear it gets harder and harder to meet people when you begin to leave the institutions that make finding people so easy (college).
I spend so much time fretting about what I need to do that a lot of time I forget that I don’t need to do any of it. Hell, I don’t even need to finish college. These are only things I want to do because I believe they will help me pursue a better life. Now, when you put it in terms of quality of life, suddenly things become more complicated. I could work really hard and maybe be rewarded for my endeavors, or I could take a more relaxed approach to college and immerse myself in the unique social atmosphere that exists in no other institution on this Earth. Essentially, I could be the irresponsible kid/teen/guy I never was. Wow, why is life so complicated?
Our live are only as complicated as we make them, and sometimes we need to be reminded just how silly we are. Luckily I have a lot of support when it comes to telling me how I’m screwing up, and someone is always around to steer me in the right direction. I mean that in the most positive way though, and just last night someone special made me realize that the way I live, with all my commitments and my meticulously planned schedule, is about as far from my ideal as I could ever be.
If you ask me my ideal lifestyle you will undoubtedly get a mix of purposeful work and meaningful relationships. What you might not hear me say is freedom and introspection, yet these are two things I hold dear. When I am free to move and grow as I please I am most happy. And when I can reflect on my life and the world around me I can feel the weight of ages pass over me. It is as if I am making a connection with the past; a connection to that fundamental human spirit that lives in us all. It is cloaked in the folds of manufactured purpose, but under the veil we can all relate to the need to feel satisfied.
You know, above all else I think that is the word. Satisfaction. Are you satisfied with your life? Are you satisfied when you give up something fun and important to do something you think you need to do? Or are you satisfied living a life of mediocre productivity? Everyone knows the feeling of satisfaction. Look for it. Pursue it. Find it. When you’re satisfied those important things will come easy. You will confess your love. You will show your appreciation. You will admit your wrongs.
And you definitely won’t be wasting your time trying to figure our what you’re doing with your life 😉