Saturday, May 28, 2011

5 Years Since Graduation

This month marks the 5th anniversary of graduating from the University of San Diego. It's funny because this year I felt different when I attended several grad parties for my friends. Two of my friends graduated law school, including one of my fellow c/o 06 undergrads, and another got his doctorate in physical therapy. Maybe being at grad school ceremonies made feel even more reflective but it gave me another feeling.

It made look at where I'm at since that moment. Five years of being in the "real world" and learning so much about my life, the world around me and seeing the friends that I have now/looking at where my old friends are now.

I felt so happy when I walked on that stage because all my life that's what I was driving for. I've said it before here but the No. 1 goal in my life was graduate from college. That's what I was pushed to do and it was 18 years of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice.

It never occurred to me what to do after I got my diploma on stage. I remember grabbing it, shaking hands with the President and looking up to the sky to the one person who wasn't there. Dad had worked hard to get me to college and he told me that's where I was going after USD offered me a scholarship. I held my diploma to my chest, found my mom, uncle and fam and start bawling. So happy yet so emotional because it was his moment too.

Soon as I found my fam, I grabbed Mom and cried some more. But those tears faded into happiness as that moment could never be taken away from me. It's why I'm so happy for every graduate because their own personal story to the stage makes their diploma more than a paper.

We left so idealistic and hopeful to make an impact in the world.  I thought I was going to strike out as a journalist hungry to tell stories and if I was lucky, write about sports. Either way, I was armed quoting Shakespeare, TS Eliot and other literary giants more than Jim Murray or David Halberstam.

The crazy part was that I almost didn't make it home. I was bumping "Stadium Arcadium" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to keep me awake but I was so tired from Grad Night and moving out that I really don't remember much of the drive. Couldn't keep my eyes open and definitely needed to pull over and nap.

I swerved several times on the freeway as Anthony Kiedis and Co. tried to keep me awake. By God's grace I got home and crashed in my bed soon as I walked in. Otherwise, I would've been a Memorial Day tragedy. Ironically the Chili Peppers bookended my college career. I drove down there after buying "By The Way" in 2002 and I left with "Stadium Arcadium".

5 years later, I think about graduating and marvel at where I am now. I knew the economy was going to be tough for my friends in the college of arts and sciences but I didn't know how tough. Facebook exploded and became a cultural phenomenon instead of our little secret. I assumed I would be on my own but I didn't know how my work situation would make that difficult.

Change the statement and it's pretty much the message every graduate should see after getting their diploma

I know several of my friends have struggled finding work and ended up going back to school to avoid that pressure. Some of have made great careers while most are like me wondering about our next step and how our dream of living our parent's lives is on hold.

I was blessed to work at the LA Sentinel and I'm grateful for the 3 1/2 years of writing sports. People would that was my dream job and it made for great memories, great future talent that I've seen and great experiences that have taken to meet renowned figures and even out of state for one assignment. Over that time, I learned about myself as a writer and how to learn from other great sportswriters.

When I left my newspaper gig last year (the 1-year anniversary is approaching as well), I considered that my graduate school of journalism. But I've also seen how journalism has transitioned online firsthand and how every newspaper has adapted dramatically just in the last 5 years. No newspaper had blogs on their site, the Sentinel's website was pretty basic and I could tell which papers were going to succeed because of how adapted to the times.

Blogs have changed journalism and the world. I knew folks who did it on MySpace or Live Journal and Facebook notes were somewhat like blogs? They've made journalists go from anonymous, faceless truthtellers to everyday folks who share their perspective on the world they cover. They've made newspapers more personal and that's how they'll survive in the coming years.

Twitter has changed journalism too. I long believed journalism as the old model would die in the 2010's but while I think it'll be harder for folks to break into it and for it to make money, it's still vital as we see news stories gain more traction in the Internet age and folks share their own perspectives on what they see.

One of my friends had these mints at her graduation party this month.

I'm still drawn to see my alma mater every time I'm in San Diego. But I see how its like leaving high school, the first year back is great cause you see a lot of friends. The second year, you feel even more distant. Once you pass those 4 years, you're officially ancient. An old person at 25. A relic of days gone by and no longer relevant despite the impact you left there. Reminds me what Jeff Pearlman said on his blog and LCD Soundsystem's Losing My Edge.

It's proof that the best years of our lives are ultimately snapshots. It's still fun being on the campus and I still consider San Diego my 2nd home and my escape from L.A. Yet all the more now, it feels distant and I  want to make LA a similar place by exploring it. I made it a goal to do that 5 years ago and while I have a love-hate relationship with the city, I have hope that I'll fulfill that dream one day.

I plan on attending my 5-year reunion in November and I'm wondering what to expect. I never did this for high school so I'm unsure what to expect, how to feel. All I know is that 5 years after my proudest moment, there's still a lot of living and growing to do to find more of myself.

Speaking of which, I've realized over time that I've become more assertive, less tolerant of nonsense and always aware of how others see things. I can't wait to see how I am in another 5 years.

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