Friday, July 9, 2010

My Senior FinalThought for the Grizzly Newspaper

With graduation peeking around the corner, I cannot help but reflect upon the past four years here at Ursinus, and how I ended up being the person I am, in the place I am, today. With that in mind, I feel that it is my necessary duty to thank those persons who helped me grow into this strong, understanding, independent woman; a woman who is prepared to take on the real world. To whom do I owe this preparation? Well, I’d have to say my Ursinus friend. But, the Ursinus friend is not just a single person. My Ursinus friend is the professor who pushed me to be the best student possible, the roommate who showed me what it means to be humble, and last but not least, the fellow UC Ambassador who brought out the real Helen Ann. Are these specific people? Absolutely not. My Ursinus friend represents each and every person who falls into these categories and changed my life for the better over these past four years. As I explain my experiences with these lovely, admirable people, I would like you to ponder over how these people may also have influenced you thus far in your own life.

Without you, the Ursinus professor, I am not sure if I would be as driven and motivated to succeed in all aspects of my life. You continued to guide me and open countless doors of opportunities. Your endless pushing and challenging forced me to perform to the best of my capabilities, past my wildest expectations. You showed me that there are people out there, besides my parents, who truly believe that I can succeed. When my writing started to slack and illustrated less than my maximum potential, you, my Ursinus friend, sat me down and slapped me across the face with a wake-up call; slacking and not striving for my best was not going to get me anywhere. You uncovered a wealth of potential in me that I couldn’t find. I will no longer scramble in the dark, trying to find a path of success. Your candle of compassion and guidance will always lead the way.

When I was not learning from you in class, my Ursinus friend, I was learning from you in my dorm room. For the first time in my life, I woke and went to sleep with someone else in the room. I spent every free minute in between classes with a complete stranger. Yet, as I began to adjust my habits to cooperate with my roommate’s, I realized my own individual flaws. I appreciate your seemingly polite, indirect way of humbling me. Because of you, I now recognize that despite my previous conceptions of myself, I am, believe it or not, imperfect. Along with pointing out my imperfections comes my newfound consideration for the needs of others. As much as you helped me grow, Ursinus friend, I find myself wanting to help you achieve happiness in return. Instead of going to bed when I’m finished my work, I feel the urge to stay up and support you while you struggle to complete that 10 page paper at 3am. Why? Well, when my Ursinus friend is happy, I am happy. It’s as simple as that. Even though the face of my Ursinus roommate has changed over these past four years, I consider each and every one of you my Ursinus friend.

Of course, I cannot forget the Ursinus friend who changed my life the most within these past few years: the Ursinus College Ambassador. From the first time I ever saw this group, with their royal blue polo’s and star pins, I knew that they had to be a part of my life. While I have always enjoyed leadership programs, I never quite experienced something so life-changing, so eye-opening, and as soul-searching as the Ambassador program. Putting all of the rewarding community service and volunteer work aside, the UC Ambassador made me dive into myself, discover the real me, and taught me how to accept and embrace that person. I can honestly say that I owe most of my leadership, social, and life skills to this special Ursinus friend. A UC Ambassador simply defines what it means to be a friend and change agent. This individual opened his/her heart to me, allowing me to feel what it means to be unconditionally loved. When I cried and exposed my deepest, darkest moments of my life, you did not judge, you did not even comment. Instead, you listened as you offered your shoulder for me to lean on. These are the true moments of friendship that will forever be remembered. These are the moments that define why I love and cherish my Ursinus friend.

On May 15, 2010, you, my Ursinus friend, will watch as I walk on to the stage in my cap and gown, accept the piece of paper that I earned with every part of my being, marking the commencement of my journey into the next chapter of my life. I would not have finished this past chapter without you. I would not be the strong, considerate, independent woman standing on that stage without the love and never-ending support from my Ursinus friend. Whether you were the professor who pushed me towards success, the roommate who kept me humble, the Ambassador who helped me discover the person I truly am, you changed me just by being my friend. This is my tribute to you. This is my sincere thank you.

We all have individual stories, experiences and moments that define our lives. My story is not complete. In fact, my story is just taking flight. Either way, as the song “For Good” from the musical Wicked suggests, “whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine, by being my friend.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s a question that undoubtedly every person is asked at least once in their lifetime. When we are kids, the answer is simple: a superhero, a princess, etc. As we get a little older, the question takes on a new significance. We no longer answer what our hearts tell us to say, but rather, we ponder of what seems more appropriate and realistic to say. As a result, we end up answering with terms such as lawyers, doctors and teachers. Then, just when we get comfortable with the socially acceptable answers, we graduate college, and that simple question takes on a whole new meaning. Our answers are no longer just words and a hypothetical idea. Our answers must now be put into effect and ultimately become a reality.
The problem? How do we become our answers? Or better yet, how many of us actually want to be what we utilized as an answer for the past four years?

On May 15, 2010, Ursinus College finally forced me to leave and told me I had to join the real world. After that monumental yet earth-shattering day, I became a new member of the “unemployed college graduates” club. While I promote joining clubs and making new friends, I certainly do not wish anyone to have to stay in this club for too long. The countless days of searching through job site after job site can become, well, mentally exhausting. To this day, I cannot tell you the exact number of resumes and cover letters I had to edit and revise in order to “re-invent” myself for that particular job. As I became the perfect Administrative Assistant, Editor, Proofreader, or Human Resource Assistant, I could not help but think back to that ever-important question: What do I want to be when I grow up?

Do I really want to be these positions? I can tell you that Human Resource was my answer for the past two years. However, if I was on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and Regis asked me “Is that your final answer,” would I say yes?

This is where my frustration hits its peak. At the age of 22, I feel that we have the right to not completely know what we want to be. In a nutshell, my peers and I have yet to truly experience the real world, yet alone the professional workforce. Before you go ahead and question a new graduate about their future, try asking them what they are interested in instead. Chances are, they have a degree in a field of interest, but have no idea what they want to do with it yet. Who knows? You may even be able to help them figure that answer out.

Of course, I cannot speak on this issue without addressing the few lucky souls who know exactly what they want to do in life. These individuals received the education necessary to achieve their dream, to become the answer they’ve been giving for years. My hope for these special people is that they stick to what their hearts tell them to do and to not let others break their dreams. You want to be whatever you want to be for a reason. And you will succeed. No certification test, no professor, no CEO can ever tell you otherwise.

As for me, I’ve landed my first job working for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Is this the Human Resource answer that I gave two years ago? Absolutely not. Am I willing to give it a shot to see if it’s something I could become interested in? Positively. A part of me envies the children who answer with big eyes and even bigger hearts. While they may give answers that seem ridiculous to us, they have yet to have anyone influence their possibilities. Their answers are endless.

So you ask me, “Helen Ann, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Well, I don’t know what I want to be. I will explore my endless possibilities. And I’m ok with that.