Liam Bendezu, opinion writer.
In January 2020, I wrote an article about reflecting on life's uncertainty in a way that recasts it as possibility. That is — when we think about the flexibility and opportunity unique to youth — the daunting questions about the next step in life can, in some small way, appear as a chance to shape the world around us.
Of course, I don’t think anyone could have imagined, myself included, that a global pandemic was among the collection of life’s uncertainties. Lockdown, a revitalization of a broad movement for Black and brown rights and a heated election cycle were all thrown into the mix.
A lot has happened over the past year, all of which has impacted our lives in previously unforeseen ways. All this goes to say, I think my reflection on uncertainty and possibility was a little short-sighted, and calls for some revision.
“What are your plans after UNC?”
Virtually all graduating students, whether they have post-graduation plans or not, hate being on the receiving end of this question. The pressure of others’ minds on your success is unbearable. And when some of the most formative years of our lives (so far) have just been irreparably altered by events entirely out of our control, it may come across as a little out of touch.
Here’s the revision: when the pressure of the world feels heavy on your shoulders, often through the unintended actions and words of those around us, just think, "fuck ‘em."
I’m not trying to say you should be mean or callous. Oftentimes, the advice and questions of others can push us to be better than we thought was possible. Instead, I’m suggesting that the pressure of others looking for a particular kind of success is often a figment of our imagination. We owe them nothing other than respect and kindness. We ought to stick to our gut, trust the process and continue on our path toward our own vision of personal success.
My time at UNC has pushed me to embrace this idea. As a first-year, I remember pushing myself into an academic path that I quickly found I was unhappy with but stayed on because I felt it would make other people happy. I put myself in extracurricular spaces that I thought would get me through. I wanted my version of success to reflect what I thought others expected of me. But, at the end of the day, I was miserable.
So, I switched. I found a path that made me happy. Writing with the opinion desk at The Daily Tar Heel has been a big part of that. It’s something I’m deeply grateful for and made my college experience so much more than I thought it could be. I got to write my little pop philosophy articles and met incredible people that supported me through it. As I move into the unknown, I know that at the very least, it’s something I’ll cherish and hope to find again in the “real” world.
So, fellow graduates (and current students), I repeat: fuck ‘em.
We’ll all be OK at the end of the day. And that version of “OK” isn’t anyone's but yours to imagine. That’s what it means to turn uncertainties into possibilities. The only thing left is to do it.
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