Chapter 1: Opportunities
[Editor’s Note: Elizabeth Brown ’13, Jessie Lillis ’13, Kyle Ruedinger ’13, and Amy Browender ’13 are writing alternating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]
In the hours after my last final paper was turned in, I came to understand the floating, groundless, and unplanned feeling that those who have come before me say accompanies graduation. That feeling is scary, exhilarating, but surprisingly anticlimactic. Anticipating some sort of epiphany moment where Morgan Freeman comes to you in a dream and says, “look up into the galaxies, your future is spelled out in star dust” is rather unrealistic. Instead you’re met with a futon mattress, the smell of apartment carpeting, a small closet, or in my case, my parents’ spare bedroom. For most of us, the after-party of Ripon College may not look like a glamorous beginning. However, as I enjoy the space of my own room and thoughts, while my parents listen to Linda Ronstadt in another part of the house, I feel pretty lucky to be where I am right now.
Sitting in a spare bedroom on a chair that’s been reupholstered with carpeting or curtains — it’s hard to tell — isn’t entirely what I’m referring to by “lucky.” Mainly what I mean is that I feel fortunate in my learning opportunities and experiences at Ripon College, and can appreciate the collective benefits I have received from them over the years. Applying for graduate schools and jobs means that you get to talk about yourself for an hour at the interviews, and this has made me realize that I have done a lot at Ripon. Not in an, “I’m so great, and smart, and special” kind of way though. Mostly it just makes me realize how many great opportunities I’ve had while at Ripon. I’ve had internships, jobs, leadership positions, research experience, and of course valuable classroom knowledge. The opportunities I’ve had and the experience I’ve gained from Ripon are something I’m truly grateful for.
Okay, so I’m all happy and appreciative of the experience, opportunities, research, fun, learning and such that have all been gained at Ripon, but where am I now? So, here’s the 30-second elevator introduction that usually happens in the first paragraph, but somehow fits in better here. I’m a recent graduate of Ripon with an English major, and minors in Studio Art and Psychology. In August I will be moving to Illinois to attend the University of Urbana-Champaign to pursue a masters degree in Library and Information Science. I’ll be taking classes on campus and working a part-time assistantship to help with tuition. For right now though I’m working a not-so-glamorous summer job (which is okay), reorganizing my life, cleaning things, and crashing in a spare room. And I must say, with some newly found time for reading, summer sunshine, and prospects of learning more about libraries in the fall, life is good.
One thing that I’ve learned over the years, which continues to surprise me, is how disguised an opportunity can appear. Some of my internships made me question how they would ever help me down the road, or why I had agreed that they would be a good idea. One summer research position required that I code sentences a thousand plus times for a psychology experiment, and there were many days when I had to wonder how this was helping anyone. However, in most of these instances I have used whatever random skill I learned for something else. Now, when I look at my eclectic display of experiences at a surface level I still have to wonder how this will ever help me, and at a deeper level have some sort of trust that it will.
I think this stage of my life is going to involve more trusting that life will work out, and fewer expectations about how that will look. If I’ve been wrong about experiences before, it’s probably the case that will be true again and I should stop judging opportunities at face value. This past spring involved a lot of patience while I was waiting to hear back from graduate schools about the status of my applications. The weeks of agony and excitement over “lost” opportunities, acceptance letters, and rejection letters turned me into a compulsive email checker with a serious nail biting problem. After a particularly bad week of stomach churning and anxiety attacks, I decided something about my life needed to change or I just wasn’t going to make it to the end of the semester. As a result, I determined that the things out of my control simply aren’t worth worrying about.
Of course this is easier said than done, but it really did make a difference. If I can’t solve, change, or influence the results of something, it’s really not worth worrying about. As I go into graduate school, this is a motto that I will try to keep in mind. Ripon College taught me a lot, and provided me with many opportunities. However, now I need to trust the opportunities that come my way and keep learning from them.
Elizabeth H. Brown ’13
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