I have dreaded this week for over a year now. I've known for a while now that my future does not reside in Santa Barbara. I have found that to be a frustrating truth to swallow. I love this town. It isn't for everybody, but for me it represents home. It is the type of place I want to live at the end of my life. Even though Santa Barbara itself is wonderful, I think that more than Santa Barbara I am going to miss the people I've come to love here. Westmont’s most important role in my life was introducing me to people who have changed my life. Part of my heart will always reside in Santa Barbara.
The biggest challenge I have faced these last 7 months has been trying to figure out life after Westmont. This challenge (life after college) presents itself very differently to everybody. Many people find themselves returning home for work. Many of my friends back home are experiencing this. It works out perfectly for them, as they are close to family and old and new friends. Some stay in Santa Barbara, and they have college friends or significant others they are preparing to spend a life with. For me, the next step after college has always been this hulking mass of fog. I have been staring at it approaching me for over a year. Those who were walking this journey with me, my friends and family, have stopped behind or gone their own route, and I find myself between them and the misty unknown.
I feel like I am at a great crossroads in life. The biggest question in my head is how will I connect everything that has transpired these last 22 years of my life with the future? For almost a year now, I have felt an inexplicable draw to Washington D.C. even when I knew very little about it. D.C. feels like a whole new start. Who am I going to be? The only things I have besides the shirt on my back are my dreams, passion, and faith. They have become my torch and compass as I enter the mist. As someone who clings to certainty, I have attempted to make Washington D.C. into a place of certainty. I have tried to imagine various future lives that in all honesty are not certain and are probably inaccurate in regards to how my life will actually turn out.
It was serendipitous that the movie “The Great Gatsby” came out this past May. It had been some time since I had read the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. However, while watching the film with friends, it hit me like a brick wall that I had become obsessed with an idea just as the character Jay Gatsby had. D.C. had become more than just a city to me. It had evolved into my “green light” so to speak. It was a representation of not just of an imagined future occupation, but who I wanted to become; a powerful, influential, successful individual. Happy. What I really was searching for was happiness in a fairy tale future instead of my present circumstances. Instead of accepting my current state of limbo between a place and life I loved and one that I knew nothing about, I consumed myself with pursuing a Brooks that I deemed better.
A challenge that I have given myself is to embrace the uncertainty, discomfort, and solitude that will come with moving to a new big city. I am still going to Washington D.C. I can’t ignore my dreams and passions, and right now those are leading me to one place. At the same time, I am preparing myself for a humbling next couple of years. Instead of actively seeking out meaning in power and influence, my goal is to find meaning in loving others. My time at Westmont has shown me how important having a good support base is. I started becoming a person I was proud to be at Westmont, and I plan on continuing on that journey even as my surroundings change.
I can honestly say leaving Santa Barbara and the people I have come to love has been one of the scariest things I have gone through. This summer has been hard on everybody in some way. I truly believe that the bonds of close friendship and community forged here in this Southern California utopia will surpass geography and time. I will always regard my time here with great fondness: from freshman year to senior year and my time living in a house with some of the greatest people I call friends. It has been one hell of a ride. I eagerly look forward to seeing how each one of your lives falls into place.
I will leave you with a traditional Irish blessing.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.