thoughtful next steps

Usually when I write these articles, they’re idealistic and theoretical. Very rarely do I talk about pragmatic issues. This is for a purpose. While I’ve done plenty of things in my life and am always willing to give you advice, your situation is different than mine. I don’t know where you’ve come from, what you’re doing, and where you’re going. We all have similar ideals, however, and all deal with similar theories – the idea of growing through college, the theory of proper partying. However, I’m going to depart from that this week.

As I write this, I’m on a train between Boston and Albany, after being at Harvard for their Urban Planning open house. First, for those of you who may accuse me of being pretentious, let me assuage your concerns by saying I wasn’t more impressed than I think I should have been at the very first college in America. It looked like buildings, students, and professors. People were in sweatpants, going to class. While I may have seen a little more Burberry and Prada, I think that’s just part of being on the East Coast.

This whole grad school selection thing is a pain, let me tell you. First, I have to go to four schools because it’s good to diversify your options. Then I have to take the nigh-$200 GRE which I might bomb and then feel like an idiot over, and then applications at $75 a pop when hey, I don’t even spend $75 on groceries on a regular basis. Which means I’m going to eat more rice because I want to go to a school for urban planning.

I still find it worthwhile though, because it’s helping me take reasonable and thoughtful steps about my future. Last week I talked about struggle, and this grad school selection on top of work on top of another master’s degree is a struggle. If I’m being consistent with my convictions, then I’m making some sort of worthwhile progress as a result of my struggles. I think this hard work sets me up to do something that I’m supposed to be doing later. While I can’t assume that I have any right to control the complete trajectory of my life, I also can’t assume that my trajectory is just going to aim itself.

So I went to Harvard, and I liked it. It’s my far reach school of the four, and I think if accepted I could actually thrive there. I don’t think I’ve wasted any money on the train ride (as an aside, if you have the option to take a train somewhere, do it. It’s worth every penny, and the country side at ground level at 80mph is much more gratifying that 35,000 ft at Mach 1), and certainly not in networking and understanding my process more.

I’ll get into more of the pragmatic information for you next week, but I want to leave you with something, especially for those of you in this same hunt I am: this is worth your time. The search means something, the work is worth something. These processes have a way of refining us and helping us make meaning of our aforementioned trajectories. Even if I don’t go to Harvard, I’ve provided my life a better set of coordinates. This trip may have been the difference between landing softly or violently. In my mind, a soft landing is worth a 13 hour train ride.

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