It's that time of year again. Spring semester is drawing to a close, and the smell of summer vacation is in the air. It is a scent of freedom and fear. It smells of an anxiety induced by the summer's ambiguity.
Well, that plane ticket to Italy is pretty cheap. Why not pack my bags and kiss America goodbye? Why not roll around on the beaches of the Greek Isles or trek through the Himalayas?
As a travel bug, I have a never-ending urge to go out and see the big wide world. Travel is the best thing that has happened to me. I put my money towards plane tickets before repairing my shattered phone screen or the newest clothing trend, because investing in travel is investing in an invaluable life experience. Naturally, I would take these three months to run away, because I will not be young forever. But I am also a college student, obligated to think about my career path 10+ years down the road. I cannot just do whatever my heart feels is best, because that internship position I am going to smack on my resume is going to develop skills and sculpt me to be a better person for the workplace, more than anything else. Right? Well not necessarily.
Too many times have I been conflicted between my passions for backpacking and for investing in my future. My mother tells me I am playing around too much and need to start becoming an adult. My sister tells me I need to focus on what is more important in life. My peers tell me that experience in the workplace is essential, and I need to hone my attention to that. I can't help but think that maybe our society has too much of an obsession over work, or rather, the materialistic hard skills required for the workplace. Of course, this does not mean that I advocate for no consideration of future aspirations, but I do mean to say that perhaps there are other skills that can be acquired outside of the workplace. Perhaps there is more to invest in the future besides how much money you will be earning. Maybe learning Java can wait, and that trek off the beaten track will profoundly change your world views, allowing you to better understand your place in relation to your environment.
Where have all these values gone? People say I am romanticizing things. They tell me that the reality is that no matter how much I may ponder about self-improvement and life experience, the only experience I need in today's world is work experience. If work and money were the only things that truly mattered, everyone would be working in the Financial District, analyzing numbers, and making big bucks. That may be fulfilling to some people, but I think there is something richer to our lives that cannot be commodified.
I am listening to my guts. Unless the internship is with a huge company, you better believe I'll be farming in Mongolia.
I propose thinking of an alternative way to spend time, and avoid what our social norms may tell us we are obligated to do. What will help you further develop as a person? What does it mean to be better, and by what means will you allow yourself to grow into that definition?