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  • Writer's pictureMegan Erin Lai

Finding My Way - One Day at a Time

I realized it's been a little over six months since I graduated and that's kind of weird if I think about it too much. College feels like both yesterday and ages ago.

Just last month, I went back to IWU for homecoming and I could see how much some things had changed. Some friendships picked up like no time had passed, while others had been altered by time and distance; walking around campus brought back cherished memories, while also reminding me that those are part of the past and so many new experiences are being had there by people I've never met. Although I didn't expect time to stop and everything to feel the same as when I was a student, I still felt a sadness in finding that my second home wasn't exactly what I remembered.

I remember how during my final semester, I'd dreaded knowing that my time there was almost up, but I'd also started to feel that it was time for something new. I had learned all I could there and I needed to grow elsewhere.

After graduation, however, I felt a deep sense of loss. I was no longer surrounded by The School of Theatre Arts community; my friends weren't right across the hall or a short walk away; I was no longer in an environment that pushed me to grow and pursue my passions. I was suddenly faced with the fact that without the structure of school, I had to be my own source of motivation, and the pace with which I worked toward my dreams fell on me.

I had the sole responsibility of making my life what I wanted it to be.

When I made plans to visit IWU for homecoming, I expected to feel the support and excitement I'd felt as a student come rushing back. I thought it'd be a much-needed escape from my boring day job to a place where my talent and potential was recognized; my sadness would disappear because I'd be home again.

I wasn't entirely wrong and I was overjoyed in many ways to be reunited with friends and faculty - even to walk around the campus again, but I also felt a little out of place. Because I was still adjusting to post-grad life, I hadn't thought I'd changed much or that IWU would've changed much either since I'd left. The harsh reality was that time had indeed passed and things were different now.

After that visit, I no longer feel a longing to return to IWU. I still love it and all of the experiences I had there, but it isn't the IWU I once knew. Oddly enough, I gained a sense of closure from that visit that I hadn't gotten when receiving my diploma. Seeing that I don't fit in the way I once did made me recognize that although IWU will always be a home to me, I've outgrown it. It really is time to move beyond the safety net of college.

For the first time in my life, I don't know exactly what the next step is. It's scary, yes, but it's also full of possibility. There's a liberation in knowing that I am free to find new experiences and opportunities that will help me grow in this next phase of life; I am free to take ownership of my life and shape it into the life I want.

I may not have a clear picture of the next year, or even the next month, but I do have what it takes to find my way - one day at a time.


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