Thursday, November 11, 2010

How did I get here?

What lies ahead?

Tracing back the paths you've taken (or onto which life has shoved you) to see how, exactly, you've arrived at your current destination can be an interesting and eye-opening process. What might have happened if you hadn't taken that job? Where might you be now if your parents hadn't moved when you were a kid?

Sitting on the floor in the middle of my bedroom, with guidebooks, the travel stories of others, maps and lists spread out around me, it's interesting to think about how I wound up here, planning for a two-year graduate program in Australia and all the travel I can fit in during study breaks.

It was reading Srini Rao's post on The Skool of Life yesterday, "How I ended up with The Greatest Job In the World," that got me thinking about all of this. Here I am, in my sixth month of living with my parents, more than five years after accepting that I'd never live under their roof again. And I'm enjoying it! I like living in a house again, rather than an apartment, I like being able to look outside and see trees and birds, rather than city streets, and I love being able to spend so much time with my parents before I head off to the other side of the world. And, thanks to the internet and the ability to tele-commute, I'm still at the same full-time job I've had for the past three years, so I don't feel like I'm taking advantage of my parents' generosity.

But it was an entirely random amalgam of discussions, decisions and dissension that brought me here, and I so easily could have missed the chance for this adventure. Here are just a handful of the twists and turns that have brought me to this point:
  • My parents moved from Florida, where I was born, to Southern California when I was still a baby. If I hadn't grown up in SoCal and decided that I wanted to experience something beyond the beach bubble, I might never have become interested in international issues and I might have headed to California, instead of away, for college.
  • My sophomore year of high school, I was torn between two summer programs, one at Northwestern and one at Georgetown. It was while at Georgetown that I stumbled (literally) onto GW's campus, which led to its becoming my alma mater. If I'd picked the Northwestern program, I might never have applied to GW and I'd probably have majored in psychology at Bucknell. (Which might have meant not studying abroad, and never discovering my passion for translation.)
  • It wasn't until I got into a relationship with a guy considering law school that I started thinking seriously about going to grad school just a few years after college. And the fact that he was considering Stanford and called northern California home made me quick to put the translation and interpretation (T & I) program in Monterey on my list. When we broke up, the program was still at the top of my list, but being in California suddenly wasn't quite so important anymore.
  • One evening in 2007, I uncharacteristically went to the awful, rundown gym in the first building I lived in after college and had a conversation with a woman who'd run her first marathon the year before. Eight months later, I was training for my first marathon and now, more than three years after that conversation and having completed six marathons of my own, I'm much more in tune with my own strength - physical and emotional - and am more willing than ever before to embrace my sense of adventure.
  • I applied for a Fulbright scholarship - and didn't get it. If I had, grad school would have been pushed back and, since the scholarship I applied for would have taken me to France, might have ended up being in Europe.
  • I did a random search for graduate T & I programs and came across one in Australia. Mostly joking, I sent the link to a friend. He was the one who found the dual Masters program I'm starting in February (T & I, plus international relations) by digging a little deeper on the school's site, and kept after me to apply until I gave in, did the math and figured out that it would actually be less expensive - and infinitely more fun - than the program I was planning to attend in Monterey.
There are countless things we do - every year, every month, every day - that influence, on some level, the places we end up in the future and the courses our lives take. I know there are other directions my life could have gone that would have made me happy. But right now? I'm thrilled that this path is the one my life has taken. And I can't wait to see where it leads me next.


Hopie said...

This is so true. It's funny where we end up / journey along the way. Um, I hope your journey leads you Paris soon!

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

Can you imagine how different your life (and Jess') might be if you hadn't studied abroad when and where you did? I'm glad things turned out the way they have. :) And I hope so too! Although "soon" is probably relative, given the whole heading-the-other-direction thing...