A little, a lot of change

I’m moving out of my parents’ house at the end of the month. I have been spending all morning packing cleaning. I can’t even pack yet because I am going through all of my stuff — books, clothes, etc. etc. — and figuring out what needs to be tossed, what needs to go to Goodwill, what needs to be packed and what (little) needs to be kept at the house.

For some reason, I decided to tackle the closet first. (Some people hide everything under the bed, others keep it in the closet. Mine is the latter).

Being an avid writer since the fifth grade, I have boxes (yes, more than one) full of old journals and notebooks. Just from looking at the outside of these bound books, I can remember what (approximate) grade I was in when I wrote the contents inside. The purple flower-patterned one is from sixth grade when I really started journaling. The Harry Potter one was a birthday gift from a friend senior year of high school.

There was one comp-book (one of those college-ruled notebooks made out of “100 percent recycled materials”) in the closet, too. This one was not in one of the boxes with the others. I couldn’t remember what it was from. I thought maybe it was one from a college class that I took notes in that (for some crazy reason) I kept. No, I am not a hoarder.

I opened it up and immediately recognized it. It was the notebook I used to take notes in before my trip to Phnom Penh the summer of 2009. I received a scholarship to spend the entire summer after graduating from college, reporting at an English language newspaper in Cambodia. I had written down the contact numbers for my journalism professors, for the U.S. Embassy. I had written down my parents’ work phone numbers. I had written down my flight itinerary.


An evening in Phnom Penh July 2009


There were three other students in my program that were doing the same internship — going to a third world country on our own and reporting at a newspaper. The professors organized a seminar for the four of us a month or two before our departures. They invited a few editors from the local daily newspaper to give us advice on reporting abroad. They invited graduates who in recent years had participated in the same program to talk to us. I took notes — in the handwriting that hasn’t changed at all since then — on everything.

One of the professors had us reflect on how we were feeling in that moment, in that moment of graduating and leaving the country for a few months to be a reporter. This is what I wrote:

This is the time in my life when I am supposed to figure out who I am and what I want out of life. I will very soon be graduating from the UW and will need to know what I want to do in the “real world.” The problem is that I do not know what I really want. I know that I enjoy writing and have had fun during my time in the journalism major here, but I cannot say exactly what will come after Cambodia. I hope to learn more about myself while I’m away from home and maybe have a better idea of what I want to do with the rest of my life — or at least for a long while. 

I wrote this three years ago.

I work at a hospital now in clinical research. I can process blood on my own now. I ask participants questions about their medical history.

When participants ask me if I am going to become a doctor some day, I say “maybe” while really thinking “heck, no.” When they ask me is I am going to go to nursing school soon, I say “I don’t know” but really I am thinking “Why would I do that?”

A part of me misses reporting but I don’t want to go back to newspapers.

What I’ve learned now, that I didn’t know as a 22-year-old when I wrote that above entry, is that I don’t need to figure out “the answer to my life” right now. I’ve always been good about meeting deadlines, but for this, there is no deadline.

Often times, recent grads feel the need to “start their life and figure everything out” right after receiving that diploma. But, that’s not how life works.

I’m happy with my life. Maybe that’s the answer.