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Four Years at the Mount

Senior year

Don't blink

Katie Powell
MSM Class of 2015


Past Katie,

I don't even have to ask what you are doing right now, because I already know: you are sitting in the back of your AP English class, senior year of high school, thinking about how badly you want to get out of your town, go somewhere where nobody knows your name, and start a new life. College will be the best, you tell yourself.

That is when your life will really begin.

I am urging you to change that mindset. You are wasting so much time waiting to start your life that you are forgetting to live it. Life doesn't begin at 18. Life has already begun. I know it seems silly, especially to you, in all of your teenage angst and senioritis, because how could one be alive without living? But you would be surprised.

Think about all of those times you have said, "I can't wait for . . ." or started counting down the days to an event, or planned your life out rigidly (and don't lie to yourself. I know how you think). Think about all of those days you skipped over, daydreaming about graduating high school. Think about all of those little moments spent with friends that you missed out on because it seemed insignificant at the time. Those are your memories. Don't let them pass you by.

Life is too short to let fear guide you. I know that you think "fake it till you make it" is a better approach than admitting you are unsure, but you forget that failure is a natural step toward success. Admitting failure is not the same as admitting defeat. Instead of shying away from it, you should embrace it because you are an amazing person with a great deal to offer to the world. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, and do not be hesitant towards taking chances because you are afraid of failure. Shortcomings are part of successes, and shortcomings often teach you more. So embrace them, analyze them, and then do better next time.


Future Katie,

I can imagine you are working full time now—you are 25 years old, out in the real world, maybe you saved up money and are living in a swanky apartment in the city (ooh, high roller). Maybe you are still living at home (economic, I like it). Either way, I cannot even begin to imagine what your life is like.

I am sure you look back all the time and think that I have it easy (well, its 8:30 pm and I am in bed so, yeah I kinda do). I hope for the life of me that some of the things that are dear to you now are not things you have abandoned in your pursuit of success.

First of all, I hope you haven't forgotten the importance of spending time with your friends. I can imagine that graduate school was hard and that the habit of isolating yourself to study will die hard as you attempt to regain familiarity with sunlight, birds chirping, and other standard sounds that are significant to a hermit. I know you are passionate about your work and the people you meet and collaborate with, but I hope that is not your whole life. I hope you still remember to take time for your loved ones.

Remember, life is not a sprint. Don't rush into marriage, or children, or anything like that. Take your time and enjoy each adventure as it comes! Experience life as a young professional, living in the city. Travel the world. Learn to knit or sew or do yoga to make you slow down and enjoy life. The early bird may get the worm, but slow and steady wins the race (or something like that).

Please do not take life to seriously, because as Uncle Bob loved to say: no one gets out alive. Your career is important. You help change lives. But you still need to stay grounded. Have fun, and improvise at times. Remember those little moments that seemed insignificant, but later proved to be some of your best memories? Hold on to those, and never stop making new ones.

Never stop trying to make the world a better place. I know you have heard the inspiring Dr. Seuss quote many times, but, as the Lorax said, "unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to bet better. It's not."

As I sit here, I remember your first experience observing an occupational therapist, and the passion and pride you felt watching the children leave each day. Remember that on good days and bad, you make a difference. Remember that you can change the world.

The best advice I can offer you is this: whatever you do, don't blink. Life is hectic and sometimes days and weeks fly by without noticing. I am sure you remember senior year going by at the speed of light. I wonder if you've ever looked around your office and thought that just four short years prior, you finished your undergraduate degree. I hope you do. I hope you take those moments in, hold on to them close, and allow that moment to take all of its time passing over you.

Do not lose your passion for life. It is a beautiful, strange, and fragile gift, and nothing should ever come between you and the life you want to live.

Read other articles by Katie Powell