Now that I am in my final year of college, I have a handful of years at my disposal to reflect on and remind myself of how far I have come- educationally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I think that the older I get and the more that things change, the more often I need to reflect about who I have become and how.
There are a few big things happening in my life right now. First off, I am applying for graduate schools. And when I say “schools”, I actually just mean a single school. Although I entered my freshman year determined to never go to grad school, I completely changed my mind the past three months. Being a student at DePaul as well as traveling abroad and teaching in Peru has really shown me that there is so much I want to learn about music and teaching. I want to be the best I can possibly be at my craft so that I am able to help others more effectively. I am applying for a music-teaching program in Los Angeles to get my Master’s degree and be certified in something known as El Sistema, a musical education movement that began in Venezuela in the 1970’s. As I go through the application process and prepare to make recordings for my audition, I still can’t believe that I am a senior, am graduating, and am actually applying for grad school. I never thought this day would come!
While I am preoccupied thinking about my plans for the next year of my life post-graduation, I am still trying to focus on where I am this year. So far, my senior year has been full of many new experiences and lessons. I am finally discovering how to cook (oops…the secret is out!), how to budget my money better (after a few-too-many shopping trips), how to take risks and do scary things (such as recording an album with an indie folk band I have been involved with in college…something I would have never thought I could do before DePaul!), and how to learn how to present myself as an actual adult to society. This last one has been the toughest one- how does one go from being a kid who still greatly relies on their parents to an adult who is responsible, independent, and sure of themselves? Well, if I have learned anything, that sense of feeling sure of one’s self is not every fully attainable…so that is a relief! But I have learned a little bit about how to achieve the other two characteristics of being an adult. I have discovered the key to being a grown up: fake it ‘til you make it. Seriously! The more you view yourself as a mature 20-something (instead of a teenager), the more other people will view you the same way. I have gotten this act down so well that people even sometimes wonder if I am in my mid-20’s. Whoa. That is the age of a college graduate who is in the real world already- cool! As I have been teaching more and interacting with more adults than I ever have before, I have practiced this concept repeatedly, and it has worked without fail.
In addition to that, big changes are happening in my family. One of my sisters is expecting her first child (yay!), while my other sister is planning her wedding (double yay!)- and both events will be happening this summer. My dad is celebrating being half-a-century-old in a couple of weeks, and I am applying for graduation, making plans to hopefully move to a completely different city and possibly leave the country again within the next few years.
So in addition to learning how to act like an adult, I have also learned how to better adjust to these huge changes that are happening, both in my life and in my family and friends’ lives. What is the key to this one? Fake it ‘til you make it….again!! It helps me so much to reflect on who I was my freshman year. I entered college, ready to discover who I was and what I loved. I learned that I love children, traveling, Hispanic culture, and social justice. I learned that I could combine all of those passions and chase a wild dream. Although this year will be full of a lot of changes, I know that it will help me grow into the newest version of me- “college graduate Ruth”. I will no longer be a “DePaul student” or “undergraduate”, and I can’t wait to see what the next phase of the journey is! So, even when I am completely terrified and cannot handle the idea of me leaving this wonderful experience in my life, I know that if I continue to look back on the amazing experiences I’ve had and hold onto hope that the exciting reflection-worthy moments won’t stop here, it will be okay. It will be more than okay, even; it’ll be the next step in the adventure of life!
No matter what stage or year you are in in your life adventure, continue to embrace all that college (or high school, or graduate school, or work!) has in store for you and continue to enjoy the change. All we can do is keep discovering the way of the path laid before us this next year, this month, this week- and follow it with a smile on our face, excitement in our hearts, and a willingness to fake it until we know what we are actually doing and why on earth we are smiling.