When this picture was taken I was 18 years old. I'm sitting next to my dorm-mates Laura and Alan, two of my best friends, although I have not talked to Alan in years.
When I was 18, eight years and some pounds ago, nothing could stop me from moving into my chosen field, journalism. I was writing for the campus paper, news producing for the campus radio station and reading every piece of online writing I could find.
I was studying politics, which made sense, considering how obsessively I had followed every presidential election starting with Reagan-Mondale in 1984. I was also, much more than in high school, having luck with members of the opposite sex.
The rest of my college career could accurately be described as the logical extension of my obsessions and priorities freshman year. I ended up editing the campus paper, writing lots of Perl and HTML and freelancing for a national newspaper. I took the most practical and American of the courses in the poli sci department. And I was pretty much always dating, including two serious long-term relationships (one of which extended to after college).
By and large, I had a great time doing all this.
After college, I moved right into journalism, completing the detour into business reporting that had started in college (or from the moment I was born, if you think it's important that there is a business in the family) and positioning myself, of course, on the Internet. After a year and a half, I had to move to another job, but by and large I was on the same track.
Then, about a year ago, things started to unravel. A relationship ended, a job was lost. For the first time since that photo above was taken, I had to reconsider what I wanted out of life.
I am a sentimental person, and change has always been tough for me. The picture above, for example, has long made me think of this song, which is about the inevitability of change, and how relationships naturally become more complicated and often come to a close as people grow apart.
I had a tough time, and the last year has been emotionally intense. It was like I finally stopped, or was stopped, and looked up, and realized I have been on some sort of track. That, however much I liked my profession or had liked my lifestyle, I had not spent as much time as I might have exploring other parts of myself. I had not traveled, for example. I had not tried forms of writing or journalism other than covering politics and businesses. I had not played a musical instrument. I did not have an athletic endeavor of any sort. I had not been outside of a relationship for any significant length of time.
My perspective has, at long last, begun to shift.
The thing is, I do not think I am going to become an entirely different person. In college, I was, I think, for the most part true to myself, to what I wanted in my heart, to my true calling in life. At this point, I still think my future is in business or political journalism and, for a while at least, in newspapers.
But I also know, after all the changes I have undergone in just this one year, there is so much about myself I do not yet know, so much I am yet to become, and so much I owe it to myself to discover. What I have in front of me is an opportunity, as another year unfolds.
I do not know if I believe in God, which is to say I do not, but am open to the possibility. But if there is a higher power, it has sent me a steady stream of messengers in this past difficult year to encourage me to take risks, to embrace change, to have fun, to follow my heart and to broaden my horizons. I discovered what wonderful old friends I was blessed with, and have made wonderful new ones.