Since graduating college at the age of 21 I’ve been on a journey. I didn’t quite know what I was looking for, but I was looking nonetheless. Well, here I am going on 26 and I’m just realizing how quickly 5 years have passed.
Like most people graduating in 2010, most of us had nothing lined up for us after college. It was the Great Recession and all of my smartest friends with degrees from the top universities were only capable of getting jobs as waiters or baristas at your local Starbucks.
When I packed my bags and moved out of UCLA, the place I called home for four wonderful years, I was finally in a position where I was truly in charge of what comes next. No more classes to attend, no more final exams, and no more professors telling me what I have to do in order to succeed in the future. The future had arrived and I prayed that I still remembered all the life lessons that the grown-ups constantly reminded me that I’d be “thankful for one day”.
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as saying I was lost… it was more like, instead of having a clear roadmap complete with GPS satellite tracking explaining every step of the way to success, I was given an ancient treasure map with a compass that I didn’t know how to use.
Where do I go from here?
… Figure it out.
And so I did - I began traveling, and it would continue for the next five years. I plunged myself in new places and new experiences: I went on an expansive trip across Europe, studied in Spain, lived in Taiwan for almost two years, danced more than I ever have before, moved to The Big Apple, and even ended up in Africa at some point. Then again, as I was traveling, I was still looking for something, a mentor, a guide, an older figure to show me the way. I never found these people. Instead, I found experiences, life lessons in the weirdest nooks and crannies of the world, all of which I had to decipher alone. I was on the greatest adventure of all, the adventure of discovering myself, and in many ways, I still am.
The reason I am writing this today is because I am back home in San Francisco. No, this isn’t the first time I’ve returned since moving away for college eight years ago, but this is the first time I’ve stayed here for such a long time, and I’m shocked at my reluctance to leave. The younger me never wanted to stay home, I was always thirsting for my next adventure. I guess I’ve been away for so long that now, home has become a place to be discovered itself.
I guess you can consider my four years after college as quite a failure in the most traditional sense. I have very little work experience, my resume is a mess, and I don’t have a steady income. My journey as a professional in this world would garner me the perfect “F” in terms of the things I needed to accomplish after college. However, I do feel that I have made much leeway in a different type of journey - The highly neglected, but absolutely necessary ‘Journey of the Self’.
I ventured off to places I never dreamt possible. Woke up in the most serene mountaintops. Witnessed the most beautiful sunsets. Ate the most exotic food, and all with the most amazing people beside me. I laughed like never before, cried like never before, and also loved like never before. I learned forgiveness. I learned compassion. I may have learned more in these years than I ever did in school. I guess they call it the School of Life for a reason.
Now I’ve reached a new point in my life and I can feel myself evolving. Like a butterfly straining to crawl out of its cocoon, I cannot wait any longer. I’ve gathered this much knowledge about myself, about life, about the world, that now I want to create.
The bright young man, Jacob Barnett, put it all in perspective when he said these wise words, “stop learning, start thinking, and start creating”.
You see, because now that I think of it, coming out of college, I may have been too good of a student. I was too willing to take in another’s point of view, I was too willing to read and study every little thing that I didn’t understand, I was too willing to wait and put myself on the sidelines because deep down inside, I felt that I was not good enough, that I didn’t know enough, that I had to take more classes, read even more books, until I arrived. Then again, as Gertrude Stein put it, “there is no there, there”… I will never arrive. There will always be people who are better than me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a voice, that doesn’t mean I can’t contribute.
Now, it’s the year 2014, and I want to contribute. I want to give back. I want to share my stories, my thoughts, the lessons I’ve learned, and hopefully, it will empower you, maybe even challenge you, but ultimately, inspire you to live your life fully.
The Future is unwritten and you’re the Author.
by Jason Lam