My Post-College Reflections, Part 1

January 12, 2020

Culture and Society

Close to a month ago from this posting, I graduated from college. I donned a black cap and gown and joined hundreds of fellow graduates marching into a spacious arena on campus to collectively bid farewell to our undergraduate lives.

It was surreal and exciting.

I was a non-traditional student who returned to college after a solid break. I still remember my first day of the fall semester when I returned back in 2016. The lengthy journey that lay ahead felt like an impossible eternity. Everyone kept telling me that it was going to fly by in a hurry. Well, I actually never felt that way.

I was one of those students who went all in. I decided to be as engaged as I possibly could. All of my assignments were turned in on time, and I did not miss a single class regardless if I was sick or exhausted. No, my college days did not rush by me. My meticulousness with my studies often felt like time was slowed down every day. I diligently plowed through so much work that my days often felt long and arduous.

I did all of this and then some, and I did it because I truly wanted to finish what I started. I wanted to do it well and to learn as much as I possibly could.

With some distance from the whole college experience and time to think about its impact, there are two big takeaways which I now hold dear:

  1. THE LEARNING MUST NEVER END.

    Being in college gave me a controlled and concentrated environment in which to learn. The learning made me more competent, confident, and capable.

    Why should this only happen in college and end when I graduate?

    Truthfully, it shouldn’t. Learning is a primary key toward personal growth and self-empowerment, and I want to be as strong and qualified as I can possibly be. By now, I have already purchased two tutorials for some new software that I want to learn, and I am currently one-fifth of the way through the first one.

  2. SEEK OUT MENTORS.

    I cultivated good relationships with all of my professors not because I wanted to kiss-up to them but because it was their job to help me attain knowledge and grow as a thoughtful individual. To me, professors were more like mentors who guided me toward a higher level of understanding. One of the best aspects of getting an education is that it grants students immediate and intimate access to people who are experts in their respective fields. This is incredibly valuable.

    In time, I hope to meet with more people who have the knowledge, skills, and experience I want to obtain. Since I will not be around such people all of the time like I was in college, I will need to work harder to seek them out, but these connections are worth their weight in gold simply for the wealth of information one can learn from them.

I plan on writing another one of these reflections six months after my graduation date. It may be amusing to see the broader picture of how my college education will have changed me and the kinds of decisions I will want to make.

Until then, I am slowly easing into my post-undergraduate life. I have numerous decisions to make and more adventures to behold.

My college diploma, which I did not actually receive at my graduation ceremony, arrived in the mail today. It symbolizes so much hard work and deep commitment on my part.

I will hold on to my diploma with great pride.

-Roqué

A City That Needs to Sleep

January 5, 2020

Culture and Society

In December, my Mom and I flew to New York City. We stayed for four days. It was a trip imagined years ago in which we would be walking among the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan and breathing in the cosmopolitan air of the place.

We maneuvered our way through the NYC subway system to visit this entire list of attractions:

  • Times Square
  • The 9/11 Memorial (including the Oculos)
  • The Empire State Building
  • The NYC Public Library
  • Saks 5th Avenue
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Chinatown
  • Battery Park
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Ellis Island
  • Central Park
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Neue Gallery

We kept up a fast pace each day to be able to get to all of these places. It was as if the daily frenetic rush of the city seized both our spirits and the blood in our veins.

Despite all of this, I gave myself quiet moments to reflect on the experience. This happened as I stood in a subway train on route to a distant stop, when I woke up late at night to the sound of loud honking from a car out in the street, or while I waited for our check after a meal at a restaurant.

New York City gave me a lot to think about.

It is a densely populated stretch of land that, for whatever reason, has a culture of constant movement, like the perpetual swelling waves of a restless ocean. During my brief stay, it felt all too overwhelming, but I have come to learn that humans are adaptive beings. In this case, it seems far easier to keep up a swift pace than to lag behind and get lost in the fray. Getting caught up in this swell also means surrendering one’s sense of personal space. One gets jostled about in the tide of humans running along to and fro, and in the cramped space of a subway train, strangers reluctantly oblige a necessary intimacy to accommodate oneself and each other.

Amid all of the noise, the tight squeezes, and the rushed movement everywhere, I found myself wishing for rest and space. My mind wandered toward my private residence deep in the woods of middle Tennessee. On any given day, you can hear the hushed movement of water along our creek and the songs of birds and insects through their daily chatter. There are no tight squeezes here, only trees whose branches and roots know no bounds.

Were we ever truly meant to live such claustrophobic and anxious lives? For that matter, were we ever meant to be able to fly?

Sure, I guess.

New York City feels like a prime example of how our human evolution has ensnared us into the pitfalls of our own ambition. To be fair, there are millions of people who have grown up there and love everything about it, and if I actually stayed longer than a measly four days, I might love it too.

Nonetheless, a city that never sleeps is a city that grows tired and weary with each passing day. That is how I felt as I walked among its gleaming towers and glowing lights. The place is imbued with a desire to get bigger and splashier than it was the day before.

Well, how big is too big? How much is too much? What good is all that growth and innovation when our lives become too anxious and rushed to bother slowing down to enjoy or appreciate any of it?

I live in a place in which everything feels like it is enough, and all things grow glacially and in their own time.

I left New York appreciating my home even more and all the ways by which it gives me fullness and joy. I live in a wilderness that probably sleeps more than it should. Only the trees tower among us, and mostly worms and ants burrow tunnels underground. There is open space and steady time.

This is all that I need and more than enough.

-Roqué

The Value of Time

December 8, 2019

Culture and Society

I have been thinking a lot lately about time. Perhaps it’s because I am feeling a little nostalgic. In less than a week from this posting, I will be graduating from college. My life has gone through so much change over the last three and a half years. I started this journey facing a mountain of work and what felt like an eternity until I finished. So much has happened since I stepped onto campus for the first time as an undergrad.

So much time has passed, and yet, here I am, as if it all flew by in an instant.

If there is one daily practice that I have embraced in recent years, it is the concept of mindfulness. I have used it as a meditative tool to help me do my work and get through the day. It requires being present and living in the moment. Each task you do is given all of your undivided attention whether you are merely picking up a bag of groceries or writing a final term paper.

What happens with this practice is that time, and your use of it, feels like it expands. With the absence of the frenetic rush of your mind running a mile-a-minute through several concurring thoughts and your body multi-tasking, you lose all sense of time–and for that matter, you lose a sense of purpose.

I have deliberately decided that I do not want to live my life constantly putting out fires and rushing everywhere. I see people who do that all of the time, and it is not sustainable. I have learned to equate time with a sense of purpose. What I do with my time and what I prioritize during my day are extremely important.

I always work toward prioritizing the important stuff while also making time for solitude, rest, and relaxation. I live mindfully, and time ebbs and flows calmly forward. I prepare for times when I know life will be hectic and crazy, but by my own design, those moments are few and far between.

When I consider the most important parts of my life, my mind conjures images of loved ones, family, and dear friends. I also beam proudly about the risks I took that lead to deeply fulfilling experiences.

These days I also envision time as a precious and finite possession. When you lose an object, you can always buy a new one or do without. When you forget something, you can simply recall it later, but with time, once it passes, it is gone.

All time that has passed in our lives is irretrievable, pretty much forever.

This means that I have important choices to make. Do I spend hours scrolling through Instagram, or do I sit with my impossibly affectionate cat for a while? Do I go out and finish the twenty items on my to-do list, or do I have a quiet day at home? There are no right or wrong answers.

What matters more is whether the activities you carry out align with what you value.

Time exists in the moment. Time in the present is truly all that we have, despite our ambitious plans for the future and our past regrets.

I value my time more and more every day. Every moment that passes is mine for the taking.

I want to use my time to live a beautiful and meaningful life.

-Roqué


Learning to Trust Myself

December 1, 2019

Culture and Society

Building on my previous post, I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to trust myself. Perhaps it simply means to be confident in my convictions and to stop second guessing my intuition.

The question now is, “How do I learn to trust myself?”

Maybe this means that I need to give myself a gentle reminder whenever I have a gut feeling about something or have a difficult decision to make. Whatever the course of action I take, it needs to be informed by an intention to go with my intuition despite the naysayers both inside and outside of my head. These are opportunities for me to willingly trust what my gut is telling me and to act on those motivations. I will try to do this as often as I can. Practice makes perfect.

Trusting my intuition will help me to determine whether someone is being disingenuous or hurtful. It can help me figure out a true desire underneath a need to please others or be expedient. Trusting myself means that I will be guided by my own principles and standards that may be different from those of others.

I also need to make time for reflection and contemplation—to give myself moments of solitude in which I can be alone with my thoughts whenever difficult circumstances arise that need my attention and decisiveness.

What then is the opposite of trusting myself?

This would look like a person constantly consumed by guilt and anxiety over every decision made. It would also mean giving over important decisions to other people regardless of how I feel or how it effects me. This is no good because it creates a passive existence in which my life moves at the whim of other people’s desires. That sounds miserable.

Trusting myself means that I get to steer the ship in my own life and get to make my own adult decisions without trying to constantly please others. This is how it needs to be.

-Roqué

A Letter to My Former Self

November 3, 2019

Culture and Society

Hello,

I remember you. Skinny. Scrawny. Quiet. You’re the kid who liked to read books and never told anyone your grades even when you always got the highest scores, as if displaying your intelligence was a shameful act.

Why did you always wear your humility like a badge to be proud of? I wish I could have told you that those motivations were rooted in shame.

Someone somewhere planted this seed of an idea inside you a long time ago-that you hold your own sense of personal worth deep within. It is an inherent understanding that outside forces cannot touch. And then, you wrapped that idea and that treasure underneath multiple layers humility.

The problem with too much humility is that it gives you an excuse to hide, and by some configuration of human evolution, it gives others the license to assume they are more competent and capable then you.

You are going to come across people, mostly white men (particularly those in power), who will presume that they know better and should have the authority to dictate what needs to happen over your own work. They will impose their privileged notions over the authentic ideas you’ve brought forth.

I wish I could have told you that your humility will blind you. I wish I could have told you to cultivate more courage so that someday you can stand up to those who presume they know better and tell them to go fuck themselves. I wish I could have told you to start trusting your instincts completely. Stop second guessing. Stop devaluing yourself.

I need for you to know this, because a time will come when you will feel a certain fury–a raging anger against those people who dismiss and devalue your contributions simply because they have no concept of your worth.

I remember you. Sweet. Kind. Hardworking. I want to protect you from the embittered feelings you will start to feel against the world.

There are cruel places out there, and I need for you to stop hiding.

Stop hiding.

-Roqué (Your future self.)