September 3, 2018

KANKANHALLI | Not About What’s Next

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The start of every new school year brings with it a rush of emotions: excitement, anticipation, motivation and a slew of other positively-connotated feelings. O-Week rewards us prematurely with waves of blissful ignorance and the chance to bask in ironic nonchalance at a rigorous institution. The shrewd among us manage to reign over Add/Drop so supremely that they might not have a real class for weeks (kudos!). At the advent of Senior Year, though, I find myself grappling with a different set of emotions -— impatience, urgency and agitation prime among them.

At the heart of this agitation is the paradox of choice. What now? Will you work? Will you travel? Will you devote time to civic responsibility? Will you plunge deeper into academia or retreat to your hometown?

Suppose, after what may as well be eons of thought, you timidly choose to enter the workforce. The task of translating an undergraduate degree into a tangible career with an upward trajectory, with an acceptable work-life balance, that generates a sustainable source of income is daunting, to put it gently. Rewind a little further if passion is lacking or an occupation that justifies compromise remains elusive. Finally, throw the millennial search for fulfillment into the mix and it sometimes feels like there is not a viable option in the world.

Surprisingly, even having a confirmed destination after college does not seem to dull the sense of apprehension. Planting roots firmly in the soil of Company X is quite appealing from the perspective of a new graduate, but too soon the trials of industry have the power to displace all other pursuits. Nearly the same can be said for other typical post-graduate branches, be it higher education, research or entrepreneurship. The lifestyle of curiosity and exploration, advertised and encouraged all throughout youth, is violently overthrown by a sudden, innate demand for stability.

Constantly carrying the burden of speculation isn’t ideal, desirable or even acceptable. Lodging ourselves in a place of doubt, hypothesizing and forecasting distant consequences, is no way to transition out of a formative four-year experience. One of the simplest yet most exasperating pieces of guidance I’ve received -— from friends, mentors and www.tumblr.com/tagged/inspirational-quotes alike – is to live in the moment. Sure, this meets with resistance from every fiber of my being. Sure, it’s much more intuitive to treat college as a means to a better end. Still, if implemented correctly and fully, an investment in the present day proves to be fairly beneficial, both in the short-term and long-term.

In the scope of daily life, there are more frequent opportunities to feel satisfied in reaching smaller milestones. On a larger scale, there is the promise that the aggregate of ordinary ventures and joys amounts to something impressive and valuable.

Some folks embrace uncertainty and others, like me, are plagued by it. Occupying the latter demographic offers a few perks — you’ve mentally scanned all possible scenarios and are only rarely confronted by unforeseen events — but from a planning standpoint, you still have very few answers. To this, my slightly pessimistic yet somewhat comforting response is that it’s alright, perhaps even expected, to have a period of restlessness and turbulence, especially at the beginning of a professional or personal journey. Likely, this will result in ambition, or at least, it will catalyze the movement into more gratifying paths.

So, where does this leave us, the young leaders of tomorrow? Per consensus of the wisest philosophers and bloggers of this age, it is morally sound to enjoy the current moment, with all its current thrills and current confusions. The question of what comes next — pressing as it is — will wait. Things will fall into place right on cue. Trust me on this — if you haven’t even registered for your swim test because maybe, given enough time, the requirement will die, or humans will evolve enough to turn swimming obsolete — you’re using this logic right.

Will I follow my own advice, you ask? Well, that’s for future me to know and present me to find out.

Priya Kankanhalli is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Matters of Fact runs every other Tuesday this semester. She can be reached at pkankanhalli@cornellsun.com.