Monday, July 28, 2008

My Future Plans

As I said at the beginning of my last blog post, I am currently approaching my Junior Year of college, meaning that I am halfway through university and will graduate in two years.

This is a thought that I find scary and exhilirating at the same time, scary because of the pressures to find a job in a bad economy, and exhilirating because it means the beginning of my actual life, the beginning of building a career and an existence of my own.

Even that notion is frightening, though; I've been a kid for so long (all twenty years of my life) that being anything else is very hard to imagine. And yet, it is coming. In 2010 I will receive my degree and leave Major University, out into the real world and whatever it may bring.

The natural fears that any person in my situation would have were exacerbated this summer by the fact that I was unsure of what I wanted to do with myself after I got out of school. I felt that if I had some kind of path, something to work towards, things would be so much better, but as it was I was simply hammering away at a bachelor's with no conception as to what use I might put it.

When I was in Movie State, though, someone told me something what I needed to hear.

He was a man in his forties or so, vacationing there with his retired father. I'd struck up a conversation with the elder of the two in front of the fireplace at our Gay City Hotel. Nighttime temperatures had dropped into the fifties or even the forties, and that warmth was needed.

The gray-haired retiree, once he'd learned that I was in college, asked me what I was going to pursue after I'd finished with my studies.

"I don't know," I laughed. "I have no idea."

"Well, let me tell you something," his son interjected. "Pick a career. Pick something, and, even if you're not sure you want to do it for the rest of your life, give your all to it. Unless you choose once thing and give it one hundred percent, you'll wind up his age--" here he gestured to his father "--and won't have accomplished anything with your life."

The old man chuckled, but I could see that the middle-aged one had been right.

A person can accomplish so much more by devoting their full energies to one enterprise than they can by spreading out their talents and trying to "play the field."

That's alright while in school, but once out, you have to decide.

So, after returning from Movie State, I did some serious thinking about where I wanted to go in the next few years with my life.

I thought about what I'm good at, what I like, and what I could make money with. The answer came to me, so obvious that it had of course crossed my mind before: writing.

I have long considered the option of being a reporter, seeing as I do have a talent with words and what one of my superiors at Student Newspaper called "good journalistic instincts;" I am able to tell fairly easily which questions should be asked, what is newsworthy, what is trivial, what people need to know, and what interests them.

This had consistently been my back-up plan, something I knew I could always do but hadn't given that much consideration to. Now, I have made it my career goal.

I will be a news reporter after I leave Major University. Of course, this could entail changing my major from Political Science to Communications, but if it helps me to get the job that I'm well-suited for rather than no job at all (for I truly don't know what else I would do), then it will be worth it.

Soon, I will be contacting Western City Newspaper to inquire about a winter internship possibility, wherein I could spend a large part of my Christmas vacation effectively working there, learning the formal ropes (i.e., AP, my looseness with which is my one journalistic shortcoming) of a news organization. Next summer, I hope to begin part-time employment with them.

Before I get into where I'd like to apply for jobs following school, I should talk about what I will do before that time comes. For you see, I have no intention of entering my chosen field immediately after graduation.

My ambitions will take me elsewhere first.

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, and New Orleans in particular, I found myself at regular intervals stricken with pity for the victims in Louisiana and with appallment by the callous inaction of our government. As the years went on, my conviction that the people of the region had been tremendously wronged only increased.

Today, the population of New Orleans is but half what it was before Katrina struck, with entire neighborhoods today, left largely as they were that awful day nearly three Augusts ago.

Beginning my Freshman Year of college, I began to entertain ideas (or at least desires) of visiting New Orleans and somehow helping out with the situation there. The problem was that I didn't know what to do.

There are plenty of organizations that go down to the Gulf, but many of them, such as Habitat for Humanity, are involved in construction projects, an area in which I would be of no help and would probably in fact be a hindrance.

I wanted, as I'd expressed to my brother and parents, to help out in the local schools, working with teenagers at the high school level by offering tutoring or other assistance. However, no program that could facilitate that, so far as I knew, existed.

This April, I had the good luck to interview a young woman who'd been chosen as the commencement speaker for Major University's Class of 2008. While the subject of the article I was writing had originally been her speech, the focus soon shifted to include her post-graduation plans.

She spoke to me extensively of a group called Teach for America, a prestigious and competitive institution that sends some of America's brightest young scholars, all of them college graduates, to the country's most impoverished regions. After rigorous training extending through most of the summer (which she's likely still undergoing right now), participants are certified as public school teachers and placed for a two-year commitment in a school system while making a teacher's salary.

The young woman I interviewed was headed to Baton Rouge, and, in the story that had landed so serendipitously in my lap, I'd found what I was looking for.

I will, during my Senior Year, apply to Teach for America and, if accepted, request placement in New Orleans or the surrounding area.

The positions are extremely coveted, though, so over the next two school years I will have to build my GPA and secure leadership positions both on and off campus. 2008's commencement speaker had a grade point average close to my own, far from spectacular, a fact that gives me heart.

After two years in Louisiana (or, should I fail to satisfy that particular ambition, after I graduate), I will begin to search for employment.

I'd like a job that will allow me to move around a lot. I became accustomed to packing up and going every one to two years during late middle school and all throughout high school, and, while this had some very serious disadvantages, I was able to meet a huge diversity of people and experience lifestyles in very different environments.

I hope that will continue.

I do have in mind several places I wish to go.

I have an interest in Texas and would love to live there for a time. I wouldn't say no to temporarily residing in California, which I find an intriguing state simply because it's so different from where I grew up and where I live currently. I am enamored with thoughts of Upstate New York, though I've never actually been there.

I have a fascination with the state of Ohio that I can't quite explain.

I am also somewhat in love with Florida.

The South is dynamic and rapidly growing into the dominant part of the country, an economic, societal, and, very importantly for our political climate, electoral powerhouse that will eclipse the North with the next census in 2010.

Florida and Texas have become the titans that Pennsylvania and New York once were, and yet while the two latter states continue to bleed industry and people, the two former have some of the fastest-growing economies and populations in the country.

Florida is already the nation's most pivotal swing state, and, with the massive influx of immigrants to its borders, demographics in the state of Texas will have changed dramatically enough within the next thirty years to make the electoral mammoth of the Deep South a highly-competitive bloc in presidential elections.

In 2032, Florida will have 36 electoral votes and Texas 42 to Pennsylvania's 17 and New York's 25. In other words, the South is where things are happening. It's the nexus of everything, the mutating center of the gargantuan American empire.

Not living there at all at such an important time in the nation and region's history, during the transfer of power from Yankee to Dixie, seems silly. It is something to be seen and remembered. It is something to be savored and marveled at.

Of course, I can't imagine actually staying there, staying here. When I do permanently settle, it will be somewhere in the North. The heavily-forested hills, the fields awash in wildflowers, the surging mountains, the torrid snowfalls of my native region call to my heart. I can never fully leave them, nor could I conceive of rearing a family in the Southern states. It just seems too unnatural.

The North, even drained of its influence and a good deal of its residents, is my home. At least then it'll be quieter.

I doubt I'll go back to Native State, which can technically be considered part of the South anyway. It's not what it used to be to me.

You never know, though; anything could happen.

As Thomas said to me one night in 2005, when he was ten years old, "Nowhere feels like home anymore."

That is one of the more regrettable consequences of moving around constantly.

I suppose you just keep going until you find somewhere that feels right. I really hope I do.

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