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I grew up with ideals of success repetitively instilled in me harder than a jackhammer on a construction site. My dad always said education is the key to success, which to this day I still don’t doubt. I was fortunate enough to receive an education from the top public university in the world, so by the social norm and, of course, the public’s interpretation, that should mean I attain the golden ticket to a life of immense triumph and corporate hierarchy.
But is that what the term success means? Who defined this what seems almost esoteric term, success?
While I am grateful for the valuable lessons I learned at Berkeley, and for all of the riots I successfully dodged on my way to class (including the metal tear gas canister flying through streets of Durant towards my head), I graduated that May feeling more inclined to honor the longing voice inside of me rather than conform to what society tells me is right.
Something told me that my purpose on this earth was more than just waking up each morning to anxiously anticipate the crowded subway into work, rush to complete monotonous tasks in order to impress superiors in hopes of advancement, and count the seconds (no, more like milliseconds) on the clock waiting for it to strike time to freedom.
I had an internship one summer in college at a small Silicon Valley startup, where the best part of my day was THINKING about what I wanted to order for lunch that day. Would it be Panera? No, I only had that for the last 42 days on the job…Hmm, okay, how about that vegan sandwich place down the street? YES! They take FOREVER! (I’m not a vegan, or even close for that matter, but the more time away from that office, clearly the better).
The best part sure as heck was not the actually getting lunch part, because an unspoken law between the office was that one person is physically not allowed to get up for lunch until another, more important, person has heard a rumble in their stomach. Was that a rumble? No, that was just the Crossfit gym the floor below violently shaking my seat every time a 200 pound weight slams the floor. Therefore, some days I wouldn’t even leave for a lunch break. But the days I did, Lord help me, the line better be out the door.
That summer wasn’t as much enlightening as it was the finishing touches of paint to my masterpiece of social rebellion. I deliberately chose from then on out that I would NOT conform to the idealist views of what a college graduate should be doing, or at least a Berkeley graduate in the Bay Area. For instance, I boycotted the mere thoughts of tech superstar vortexes like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and Pear. Oh, I meant to say Apple, I seriously haven’t heard their name yet enough on campus to get it straight!
While I do not mean to condemn the corporate life, I’m only saying I discovered that one must not sacrifice their creativity to impress society. I’m also not saying I’m a Berkeley hippie yelling from atop a police car, “THE MACHINE MUST BE STOPPED!” (60s reference...), but I do firmly believe that life is about satisfying your soul, however that may be, and that is my utmost pursuit.
Spring semester, I felt a fire inside of me ignited loud enough to stir up the volcanic ash in Mount Vesuvius. I decided to pack my bags and move to Rome, Italy. Okay not quite, but what I actually did from that point on was research Study Abroad programs that would accept, well, literally anyone, as fast as humanly possible. Although an analytical Economics degree should be a implied cause for a prestigious program, I chose the program that would get me out of the US the quickest with the least requirements and hassle. While unknowingly, I was choosing the best program of my entire life. (Quick shoutout to AIFS, you are actually family now).
I believe my dad when he said education was the key to success. But it’s important not to close off opportunities and corner yourself into a linear method, or cookie cutter recipe, for a “successful” life. What I’ve realized is that education does not solely come from hundreds of thousands of dollars invested into universities. Education can come from awareness of the life around you. TRAVEL broadens horizons of cultures you’ve never even heard of, introduces you to food that you couldn’t even fathom could be so delectable (I mean, have you ever tried homemade tiramisu from a family in a rural cobblestone town in Italy?), and most of all educates you about the inner reflection of yourself you may have been opaque all these years due to the deflective mirror society flashes at you.
I made the best decision possible by fighting the societal critics telling me to get another internship, take more classes (At Berkeley, four Econ classes isn’t enough, try 16), or spend a semester faithfully applying to Investment Banking jobs in the comfort of my own Hell. So I took a leap, which only seemed logical, and submitted my application for a semester in la città eterna, beautiful Roma.
It was there, through the ashes and ruins of this ancient city, that I would rebuild and transform the term success.
While I still am exploring career opportunities, I am no longer limiting my beliefs to a rigid definition of what it means to live a successful life. I have a lot to learn, and want to take time for myself to genuinely find inspiration without the lingering presence of pressure and anxiety bearing over my shoulder. So now post graduation, I’m choosing to experience expansion and continued education, by learning the secrets of long enchanting cities and wandering the magnificently detailed world surrounding us.