As the days tick down closer and closer to the start of our ’round the world (RTW) adventure, I am constantly reminded that I truly do love my job and the experiences I have gained from it.
Today marks the end of a summer bridge program that I coordinate for incoming freshmen at the university I am employed at. The students we recruit are statistically disadvantaged (see TRiO), but beyond that they all come with their life’s experiences, worries, hopes and dreams of making something of themselves. Through the course of their four or five years they will grow, hopefully come to terms with their own personal identity, and find their way into a career path that will lead to a happy and successful life.
I have been doing this long enough to know that this doesn’t hold true for many students. Life gets in the way, sometimes a certain college isn’t the right fit or it just isn’t the right time for them to attend a university. However, these students, those who go through our program are more likely to graduate when compared to the university as a whole. I like to think it is my program – not necessarily me, but my co-workers who have been here longer than I as well as the mentors and tutors we hire to help guide our students.
The students who came in as freshmen my very first year are now seniors, and it saddens me to know I will not be there to watch them cross the stage. Yet, I know they will be OK because the support system has been there from the very beginning. I’ve gone home with a heavy heart many a night due to the experiences that students either shared with me in confidence or that they recently endured and are seeking guidance. Family members murdering another, rape and sexual assault, pregnancy, domestic violence, abandonment, and homelessness are just a few of the things that are shared in my office. I’m no counselor and didn’t always have the right words to say but I was there for them, and that gave me purpose. Someone was there to listen not to judge, to advise not to preach, to simply share a positive experience with someone who would be happy for them.
At times I feel that I am being selfish to run off on some backpacking adventure, and if it wasn’t for my coworkers that will continue to support these students after I leave I don’t know if I could go. Go I will and go I must because it is an adventure I have longed for many years, but how long can I travel without purpose or direction. I mentioned that my wife and I are considering the Peace Corps, and it is for that very reason – to live with purpose.
The idea of being irresponsible, throwing all to the wind and traveling the world sounds exciting and promising of adventure and life experiences that we would get no where else – but can we really do that forever? I doubt we can, which is why we are already planning our next move after our adventure. But it is hard to plan ahead when you don’t know where you will be, not location but growth wise. I am not the same as I was when I went into college, nor when I started this job and I doubt I’ll be the same after this adventure. How do you set a plan, designate a purpose when you are not sure exactly who you will be and how you will view the world. I am turning 27 this October. I just submitted my thesis and have successfully graduated with my Master of Arts degree in Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). My wife will finish her graduate degree in October. This March we will celebrate our two year wedding anniversary. I feel as if I am at the edge of the next step, the next chapter of my life – but I just can’t see what is there yet. What will become of my story and will I still recognize the character at the end?