these four years

*drumroll as i announce the consummation of a major milestone in my life*

tonight i graduated from pacific lutheran university with a bachelor of arts in communication emphasizing in public relations & advertising, and a minor in hispanic studies. i graduated with cum laude (which if you don’t know what that means, it’s OK. i still don’t really either. basically my GPA wasn’t perfect, but y’know, not too shabby either).

i feel very dustin hoffman-esque. just minus mrs. robinson. because i’m the graduate. *mic drop*

so. i suppose it’s time to ease your qualms and answer the ever gregarious, effervescent question that will literally kill any conversation.

what’s next? what are you going to do with your life? what do you want to do?

as i often do when asked this question, i’m going to quickly divert your attention to something else (namely these adorable photos from shortly after the graduation ceremony followed by the typical drawn out narrative).

this is going to be a long winded, roundabout answer as to what i’m doing with my life, so if you absolutely can’t wait for the answer (no spoilers) just skip to the end (but it prob won’t make sense anyway so just read the whole thing pls).

my friend has this question he loves to ask. “when you look up the stars, do you feel really big? or do you feel small?”

talk about a loaded (baked potato) question. if this was wheel of fortune i’d be straight up wheelin’ my ass out the front door because tbh idk the answer.

i twiddled my thumbs (tweedled? twodled?) and sat quietly for a bit. i have no frame of reference for time so it literally could have been seconds or minutes or eons. whatever. *brushes the thought away with my hand in a shooing motion that suddenly becomes a dance move and oh okay now i’m break dancing someone stop me*

i couldn’t say anything for a while. not because i didn’t have an answer. i immediately knew whether i felt big or small when i looked up at the stars. but i was tryna figure out why.

because when i look up and see the stars, and i’m looking up at them through my own eyes: i feel so big.

we’ll start from the beginning to give y’all some context. i live my life to help others. like, to a fault. my sense of self worth is unmitigatedly dependent on my ability to make a positive impact on the people around me. i have this overwhelming, compulsory need to make people happy.

so when i see the stars i imagine that every single star represents a person i’ll meet for the rest of my life. the brightness of the stars represents a hope to shine my own light on each person. i want to believe the stars shine brighter once i touch them. this makes me feel big because i stand there staring up at my future. up at the limitless opportunities for a life outside my own. hoping. praying. that someone’s life can be better because i gave as much to them as they gave to me.

it’s kinda like when you light a candle. it shines brilliant and bright and brings so many good things to those who see it. totally shines with rhianna; bright like diamonds in the sky. but the flame also has the power to light other candles. the remarkable thing about sharing the light is that the first candle never dims by doing so. the flame isn’t smaller. on the contrary it grows like crazy and y’know kids, this is one wildfire that smokey the bear shouldn’t put out. (also cameo by billy joel as he’s claiming on his life that he didn’t start it).

okay okay. except this is the senior-year-elise answer. if you asked freshman-year-elise the same thing, she would’ve flashed a panicked smile and immediately, yet nonchalantly, wheel of fortune’d out the door.

(editor’s note: please continue reading as i attempt to convey a seemingly random thought process that’s vaguely reminisce of a bo burnham standup).

i’ve spent the past four years blindly finding my own light. i’ve also spent those years learning how to cope with mental health and being cognizant of what it means. i used to wish i could be a perfect human being. y’know. no flaws. super outgoing. talented at everything. preferably a little taller. then somewhere down the long and winding road (whilst i was incessantly striving for barbie-like perfection) depression and anxiety came into my life like miley, just swingin around on a wrecking ball (literally. like. breaking everything & making one mess of a human being).

coupling poor mental health with my unwavering ambition, integrity, and drive; and you, too, will discern that these two things were not meant to tango. for a while i just could not find the light at the end of the damn tunnel (on the real. not a tunnel i recommend holding your breath for). after a long series of unfortunate events, a trip to a mental health hospital, and a couple bottles of antidepressants and anxiety pills later; it was with submissive resignation that i decided i’m not (in fact) a boy scout and can’t start a fire to save my life (let alone a spark). on the plus side though, i finally realized that i could find my own light in other people.

i’m not always the most eloquent of communicators, so bear with me as i reference someone much more articulate than i. stephen chbosky’s the perks of being a wallflower is a literary bible when it comes to (at the least) starting the conversation for mental health for young adults. the following excerpt is charlie’s last letter. it resonates deeply with me. also if it doesn’t get ya caught in the feels then idk what to tell you, man.

“i don’t know if i will have the time to write anymore letters because i might be too busy trying to participate. so if this does end up being the last letter, i just want you to know that i was in a bad place before i started high school and you helped me. even if you didn’t know what i was talking about or know someone who’s gone through it. you made me not feel alone. because i know there are people who say all these things don’t happen.

and there are people who forget what it’s like to be sixteen when they turn seventeen.

and know these will all be stories someday and our pictures will become old photographs and we’ll all become somebody’s mom or dad. but right now these moments are not stories.

this is happening.

i am here and i am looking at her and she is so beautiful. i can see it. this one moment when you know you’re not a sad story, you are alive.

and you stand up and see the lights on buildings and everything that makes you wonder, when you were listening to that song on that drive with the people you love most in this world.

and in this moment, i swear, we are infinite.”

*cue david bowie’s heroes and let the waterworks begin*

now that i’m older, perks hits a lot closer to home than it did the first time around. so if you’re reading this, just know i was in a bad place for a while, but you helped me. sometimes you can’t light your own candle. that’s okay. if you’re reading this, it means you lit mine. that light has shaped me in unfathomable ways as i’ve grown into the person i am today. you made me feel not alone. through whatever omniscient awakening, we can see we’re not a sad story. we’re alive.

what do i see when i look up at the stars? i gaze ardently into the blanket of darkness, scattered with flickers of light. i see hope. i see opportunity. i see a million shining stars equating a million glimmering possibilities. every one is a reason to not give up. i glimpse again at the stars. i feel so big because i realize i’m shining alongside them.

to summarize: i’m learning what self-care and coping with mental health mean. in an unexpected plot twist, i have found so much joy in not being perfect. don’t hate the cliche, but it’s meant accepting the idea of “perfectly imperfect” (or “flawlessly flawed” if you’re tryna be more original). i know who i am. i’ve acceded everything i am not. it’s been a long journey.

looking back on four years of growth, it’s p evident my inner flame is ready to catch fire. the talking heads would wanna wait until the party’s over, but yolo bc we’re BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE.

so. coming full circle (finalmente amirite). but what are you going to do with your life? 

i honestly do not know. & i am honestly okay with it.

because even though i don’t yet know quite yet what i’m going to do with my life; these four years taught me who i am in this life. which sounds like a very PLU vocation-y response but like, c’mon. pres. krise would totally love it.

xoxo,

your recent college graduate / dustin hoffman look alike

p.s. on the real tho. i have an established brand which i’m continuing to build. i’m currently working as a freelance artist being hired for special projects in photography, video, and graphic design. check out my work here. (it’s p good).

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