Xander’s (Post-College) Life – Year 1

“They can’t make any decisions, because they don’t know what they want, and they don’t know what they want because they don’t know who they are…”
-Kate Carraway, on the Quarterlife Crisis (http://www.eyeweekly.com/print/article/55882)
It’s been a long time since I’ve sat here like this, armed with a few reflective thoughts and a burning drive to get them out on electronic paper. It’s been months, maybe even years, since I felt like I do now. As the Starcraft marine put it in the SC2 trailer a year ago, “Damn… it’s about time…”
Nearly five years ago, I had been diligently writing in my Xanga about my experiences as a new college student (http://skyrien.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=Skyrien&nextdate=8%2f30%2f2004+23%3a59%3a59.999); I wrote about my expectations, the challenges, the joys, and the inevitable pains as I explored the social, academic, and miscellaneous elements that made up the college experience. It’s a joy reading it again, and a pleasure knowing that even then, I had the passion and drive realize a particular story of my life–that of the un-regretful life learner. Clearly, I didn’t end college without mistakes, but perhaps I could live without regrets, knowing that the best is, as always, yet to come.
And now, here I am again; where I was 19 then, now I’m 24–a little older, and who knows, maybe even a little wiser, and better able to reflect on what I’m trying to do with my life, and where I’m going. Thankfully, I don’t think I’m facing a crisis right now; as my freshman year at Microsoft dwindles to a close, I feel I’m in a good place with my career start. My greatest unknowns at this point are not my short-term career situation (thank God for that) but rather the two-to-five-year plan. Whereas in undergrad, the four years made sense; broken down into neat measurable chunks called semesters (or quarters), where you could frame distinct goals for yourself, be it GPA, a job, or some other personal goal, in the career world, things aren’t nearly as distinct, and goals are completely personal. As my fellow career-following brothers and sisters know, it’s not so easy to measure your progress, and three weeks of vacation is hardly enough time to reflect. There are no checkpoints or goals than those you set completely on your own.
I read a good book in college that taught me: “Never confuse your career with your life,” and I’ve lived with that mantra for several years. It doesn’t mean that career isn’t important; in fact, I took it to mean that your career should be focused and be what enables you to live a good life (and not the other way around). So, while I spent time building my skills and proficiencies for work, I’ve also been balancing it out with personal development in the form of hobbies, idle-time, friends, and meaningful relationships. And while I sometimes envy those that know exactly what they want from life and have never questioned the way of things, I still hope that by debating to death every major path and choice in life, I will gain a stronger sense of perspective on the path I end up taking.
    “Do I stay in neuroscience, or should I jump ship to engineering?”
    “Is the University of Illinois going to give me what I want out of my undergraduate experience?”
    “Chicago, or Seattle; Microsoft or Accenture?”
These are all questions that I’ve grappled with over the four years of college, and have ended with a swift decision; none of which have led to any lasting regrets. I spent the first year here, intending to explore what this young-adult, post-college corporate work lifestyle had to offer. Yet now, as I look towards the second year at MSFT, with a half-dozen hobbies, and just as many groups of friends, I wonder how all of this fits into where it will take me over the next few years.
Sad as it may be, watching Transformers tonight made me realize that I have this immense internal drive to DO something meaningful, save the world, impact people, and have a Michael Bay-isque rollercoaster ride of a life while I fight to get there. But drive alone takes you nowhere, and as Kate mentioned in her entry, before you can do something with your life, you have to know what you want… and that means knowing yourself. She also mentioned that there’s a lot going on out there in the world, and now, with Facebook, Twitter follower counts, Technorati numbers, or Virology scores, there are evermore ways to judge your own odds for the kind of success you dream for. Fear of mediocrity looms large in our young-adult minds. But rather than feeling inadequate in the face of greater success by those around us toting 4.0s, or 20%s, or followers in the tens of thousands, why not let it serve as a reminder that there’s much work to be done? For even the greatest individuals had to start somewhere.
I’ve always become a fan for people that know themselves and derive true satisfaction from the passion of what they do. Even if they struggle in finding their place in the economy, in their industry, their life plan, or even in their own minds, I love speaking with anyone that has a burning desire to live a meaningful life. Maybe it’s just the bittersweet idealist in me, but I always think it’s better to hope and lose, than never to have hopes at all. One’s a story worth telling, the other… that’s just lame.
Anyway, enough of my disjointed post-movie watching ramble; here’s to yet another beginning! Where I’ll be in four years time, I can hardly guess. Let’s just say that I am absolutely dedicated to making it something I’m proud of.
All right now, enough of that reflective idealistic crap, time to jump into reality. On to Xander’s Life, Chapter 1.