Following My Headlights

In my “American Renaissance” English class this afternoon I had the privilege of discussing Henry David Thoreau and his essay, “Resistance to Civil Government,” with some of the brightest thinkers in my English major at Notre Dame.  In the midst of Thoreau’s argument for civil disobedience, we discovered a strong opposition to complacency.  This resistance to simply going through the motions of life is still ringing in my ears hours later.

It brought me back to my high school days of driving to school and blasting the radio.  Four years later, this song pops in my head.

“I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking/ What if I had given everything/ Instead of going through the motions?” – from The Motions by Matthew West.
I don’t want to just go through the motions of completing senior year, finding a post-grad job, and moving on with life.  I want to be active in every moment of this fantastic, whirlwind journey.  I want to be present in every moment.
Senior year is a big deal.  I’ll admit, it still hasn’t really hit me, and I’m currently blaming that on my 5’2″ stature which allows me to still pass as a high school sophomore.  It’s completion might signify the end of college – for me, the end of an amazing experience at the University of Notre Dame – but it certainly marks a beginning much bigger than I could have ever imagined.
I still haven’t sorted out post-grad plans yet, and for some people that might feel scary but I’m oddly calm.  I think it’s because I know I have so many options for the trajectory of my career and my life.  What I do in the year immediately following my graduation from Notre Dame in May is ultimately just a small chunk of my life.  It’s a starting point, not a determining point.
Every stop in life is a transition to the next.  I’m only a little frightened by post-grad because I’m more excited about all the possibilities it can offer me.  Will I teach? Will I write? Will I work in media? Will be a curator? Will I start my own business? Answer: I have absolutely no idea, but I know all options are possible and that’s what calms me.
Some of my Notre Dame classmates know exactly what they want to do next year – they have the whole job description memorized.  For them, that’s reassuring, for me that’s terrifying.  I still have a whole lot of months of college left to finish figuring myself out.  I’m not procrastinating, I’m just working on myself.
Not committing doesn’t mean I’m indecisive.  That’s a life lesson I’ve learned this semester – I need to stop labeling myself as “indecisive.” It’s an escapist term – an excuse which lets you be okay with not knowing yourself.  It’s not that I can’t decide what I want to do next year, it’s more that I’m notready to decide.  I need to be sure that what I choose to do post-grad is good for 20-something year old Katie, instead of for 40 year old Katie (gasp!).  It’s good to plan ahead, but remember your headlights can only guide you for so far.
Speaking of headlights, as a writer I’ve always loved this quote on writing by E. L. Doctorow:

“It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I’d argue this is pretty applicable to life in general.  If we get too caught up in the future – in the unknown darkness of what is yet to be – we lose sight of what is well lit in front of us, in the present time.
Today is October 1st, 2013, the second anniversary of my Papa’s (Dr. Carl J. Troia, M.D.) death.  His passing remains the greatest tragedy I have ever experienced.  Papa loved Notre Dame.  He essentially forced my uncle to go here – I don’t know how he had to be coerced – so when I sent in my commitment letter in to Our Lady’s University, Papa was thrilled. He told me he knew I’d be great, that it would be a good fit for me.  He was right, he is right.  There’s something truly special about a loved one supporting you unconditionally – without specified expectations.  It’s in my Papa’s unwavering and eternal support that I find solace in my post-grad discernment.
On July 5, 2011, I left my grandparents’ house in Omaha, NE after a 1-month stay with my Nana and Papa.  Papa and I said our goodbyes and said we’d see each other in October, on my fall break.  I’ll always be waiting for one more hug.  But until then, I know Papa (my beloved guardian angel) will be helping me adjust my headlights so that I never lose sight of my personal worth and my abilities.
I love you Papa, we all miss you. Today, tomorrow, and forever.
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