Do something every day that scares you.
This is, without a doubt, the best advice I've ever received. Originally a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, this line was part of a hypothetical commencement address written by Mary Shmich in 1997 titled “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.” Two years later, a narration of the address was recorded, and eight years after that, was burned on a mix CD that played in our kitchen every morning.
While I’d love to say I wear sunscreen every day, truthfully, the only part that stuck in my brain was the aforementioned line. A natural thrill-seeker and lover of life, I venture to try new things as often as I can, much to my mother’s dismay. However, I can confidently say—and much to my mother’s dismay—the best and most valuable experiences in my life have come from times I seized an opportunity, unaware of where the end may take me.
This is what led me to spend two years writing satire for The Black Sheep UIUC. It’s what led me to take a solo trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago. It’s what brought me to Minneapolis on my own after graduation, far away from family and friends, to take a dream job I had chased throughout college.
Although it wasn’t originally part of My Life Plan™—move to Chicago, get a job in advertising, start taking improv classes at Second City—Minneapolis appealed to a deeper sense of adventure, and I took the job. Although it was fun to explore a new city, moving here was incredibly difficult. On top of adjusting to being an adult in the real world, I had to do it in a city roughly seven hours from home, far from my friends, who were all happily living in Chicagoland. Meanwhile, I was lonely, I was broke, and I was unhappy. So unhappy, I made a promise to myself that if in a year, I was still feeling this way, I would move to Chicago and stick to The Plan™ I originally had created.
As of today, a full year has gone by since I moved to Minneapolis and started working at FLM Harvest, and what a difference a year can make. I’ve grown in ways I never imagined. I’ve gotten to know myself. I’ve dealt with heartache. I learned so much about digital advertising. I finally sought out treatment for the anxiety I had been dealing with for most of my life. Above all, I now know I can do things on my own. Life is funny that way. You finally think you’ve conquered the world and life and all your inequities once you graduate and get a job, and then you graduate and get a job and you realize very quickly how little you know about life and the world. It’s a humbling, terrifying, but all together necessary experience.
As the sun sets on my first full year in adulthood, I continue to follow the advice of Mary Schmich and Eleanor Roosevelt. A month ago, I moved in with a friend who was a complete stranger five months prior. A week ago, I finally began a project I’ve dreamed about for years. Today, I signed up for improv classes this fall. Tomorrow and the next day and the next, I will continue to do something that scares me because in that moment of insanity and bravery, I learn more about myself and the world around me.
TBD on the sunscreen.