2016 has been the year of changes- ones I fully embraced and ones I never anticipated happening. I have learned more about myself and the world I am in than ever before. I met some of the greatest people of my life and had the opportunity to take classes that have completely shifted my world view. I even moved in with my best friend and adopted two new bunnies!
Ultimately, this year has treated me well. It has tested me in so many ways and at some points I felt like I was being dragged through the dirt with no end in sight… but as I sit and reflect on it all, I realize that I have grown more than ever before.
I am in the middle of studying for my final exams for my third semester at UNC Charlotte and I have been letting my mind wander to every corner of the universe. Earlier this semester I had what I have deemed my “pre-quarter life crisis” where I basically questioned every single thing I have been doing in my life, and what path I have set myself out upon. Ya know, one of those situations where you want to pull your hair out and just commit to a life of being a bum. It definitely sounded more appealing than studying for accounting at the time.
The path from studying to grade-defined success has not come easy for me here. I have found out that the student I was prior to attending college is not the same student I am now that I look at the world with the eyes of an adult. I am solely intrigued by citizen of the world knowledge that builds me up as a person. Calculus, accounting, statistics... they just don't cut it for me. I've made my first Cs, and while I fought for them in late night library studies under mountains of flash cards, they fought right back. It is when I take these extra courses that I feel myself grow. You could give me an F at the end of it and I would still walk away happy to have been a witness to the lectures.
I took a Holocaust film class and it shifted my view on every single way that the entertainment world documents historical events- it made me question the methods of education that I blindly trust through the media and other sources. How often in my day do I turn my head to events simply because they aren't made to be attention drawing enough? Since when do we accept capitalization on the misfortune of others? Why did it take me this long to realize that the Boy In the Striped Pajamas was making us sympathize with the other side- one innocent life lost compared to the weight of millions? I doubt I would have caught on so quickly to the pin-needle details that now stick in my skin from these moments...
My visual arts course taught me to acknowledge the significance of art as a sign of progress by humanity. Feats of cultures such as ancient Greeks or Romans matter because it shows the drive for intelligence in a new light. It could help everyone out- not just an individual. Beyond whole civilizations, there were people I learned about such as Van Gogh. I never knew about his personality, only recognizing The Starry Night, and his existence has struck a tone with me to the core. He struggled with mental illness throughout his life, and was such a lonely person. My own struggles with mental health make me want to reach out beyond generations and pull myself into a room with him to be mentored in thought. “As my work is, so am I.” Is my work even my own anymore? He exemplifies my fears and my desires, and he has led me to question the things that may follow in this reflection. All thanks to a liberal studies elective... an "easy A" course.
What about my American studies elective? The one that has taught me more about Latino Culture than I ever knew before? For the first time in my life this brilliant light has shined upon the heritage of people with the same blood as my own, and I have been brought to tears over some of it. I am just pages away from completing the novel "the Devil's Highway" which has made me feel this fire within me. It analyzes every figure on both sides of the border associated with the group of the Yuma 14 who were left to die in the desert by their coyotes as they tried to cross into the United States for better prospects. This novel in itself has completely shifted my view on the topic of immigration, even after having been raised by a Mexican immigrant myself. How blind I have been to the reality of my own father's life, of my family! How blind I have been to so much... changed now by these "extra" courses. They do not count as much towards my major as things like Business Informatics or Macroeconomics, yet I can feel it inside of me- these are the things which change me. These are the classes that I dedicate my time to, and these of the classes that have helped me dig myself a little rut of despair.
With my growth has come contemplation.
This semester I considered transferring away from Charlotte. I get a little stir crazy in this city and I have realized to what extent my soul needs to be in nature. I always knew that growing up in the mountains would make me appreciate the opportunities of silence that I would find in the woods once I left, but I never realized just how badly I would crave it. Coming home from Charlotte has been such a tease. I am blessed to be able to visit home very easily, but even a visit every weekend does not change the fact that I am rooted in Charlotte for the next few years. I thought that perhaps Boone would treat me better until I fully acknowledged how bad I get in cold, cold weather. I get depressed and remain holed up inside during months like February and March and to imagine being in a town that is known for getting all of that extra freezing goodness makes me want to crawl under a rock even more.
So, here I am. Here, I will stay.
I have a lot invested into Charlotte, and I am making progress. So far, I am even a little bit ahead of the game and if I commit to summer courses, I could graduate early. Graduate with what, though? THE REAL HAUNTING QUESTION!
Now that a 1960’s horror movie tune is hopefully playing in your head, I can get real.
I’m a business major. I like business. I’ve got a successful photography business going on the side of being a full time student, and I’ve worked under other artists through my parents, seeing the behind-the-scenes details of operating a small business. I’ve seen success of such things, and I’ve seen business failures. I’ve seen a lack of appreciation for effort and I’ve seen projects that do their job and absolutely amaze others. I understand a bit of the small business deal in regards to artisan activities, and I love it.
Therefore, I am torn.
As a sophomore, I am still considered a pre-business major. After this upcoming spring semester, I will declare my major in the business college. A general business degree is not available from colleges anymore, as people in specialized fields become increasingly valuable.
I’ve anticipated declaring a marketing degree as a major that would allow me to utilize the creative parts of my personality in a future career, but I have been handed a realization by advisors that I kinda made a wrong move at the beginning. Perhaps my creativity could have been more useful to the marketing world if I had majored in graphic design or visual arts. That’s not to say that I cannot still find contentment in that area, but I do not want to just be content. I want to have my hands immersed in a project and see progress every single day. I’m not out here trying to get a six figure salary and impress anyone because I’m so damn official that I’ve gotta wear a pantsuit to prove it.
I’m just stuck now. I know that I have these big dreams inside of this secret little mental box in me, and I am finally realizing that I am hiding them out of fear of judgement. Why here, why now? The reason is that this judgement is the opposite of jealousy. It’s almost as if I would be ashamed of someone seeing me happy with the simplest things. The reality is, I have to end that. I have to do what I want to do. I have to commit these next two years of college to myself before anyone else. I have to commit to a life of success that I measure, not one that is measured by people who I do not even think of.
So here I am, at the end of 2016, 3/8ths of the way through my college education, ready for what comes next- because I'm ready to stop hiding. I have the opportunity to declare a major that can help set me up on a positive life path. There is more for me beyond Charlotte.
I am ready to be the best I can be for next year, and I can’t wait to show exactly how I’m going to do that.
Thanks always for love and support.
“When one has fire within oneself, one cannot keep bottling [it] up—better to burn than to burst. What is in will out.”
—Vincent van Gogh