Monday, September 12, 2016

Thinking about the future

Hey guys!

So before I begin, let me just start off this post with a quick blurb gushing about how one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world, Gianna, recently made it onto the NSLI-Y Interactive blog! Check out the post here. It's rad. Also the whole NSLI-Y Interactive is a great resource, chock full of incredible stories and information about the wonderful projects organized on and after NSLI-Y programs by program participants. A pretty great testament to how wonderful the program is and the sort of driven, motivated, and world-changing people it attracts.

OK, gushing over.

Today, as you can probably tell from the title, I wanted to share my thoughts relating to my future, and the ways in which people often ask me about it.
As I would think is typical for any teenager (now turned young adult), the past couple years I've been asked very frequently by many people in my life about my plans for the future. Whether it was adults making innocuous small talk at dinner parties, counselors and teachers helping with college applications, or even just while engaging in detailed, deep conversations with close friends, this has been something that has been at the forefront of my mind for a long time for a variety of reasons.
And it's a subject that I've paradoxically been quite sure about for a very long time, and conversely still struggle to answer in substance in other ways.

Since I first started to become passionate about foreign languages and cultures around the age of twelve, I've more or less known that I wanted the path of my life's work to center around those in some way. Rather than fretting about top 40s pop music or middle school gossip, I spent my time on cloud nine in the international section of the public library, making long lists of languages that I wanted to learn - up to fifty strong, mind you - and imagining future escapades.
Interestingly, this went on for a long time even when I didn't really know exactly what a lot of these languages actually sounded like. I can still pinpoint a moment that stands out vividly in my mind in which, sitting at my computer, I felt compelled to listen to the version of "The Circle of Life" from the Italian dub of The Lion King (I watched Disney movies dubbed into Italian when I was little), and suddenly it occurred to me that perhaps there existed dubs for other languages I was interested in as well, and I could discover just what they sounded like that way.
Finnish, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, then European Portuguese, Latin American and European Spanish, one after another, on and on, I kept going, I kept searching. Hearing the beauty of those mysterious cadences and melodious words left me utterly bewitched. Actually discovering the sounds of these languages left me even more intrigued, and at that moment the passion clicked. I knew I was in it for the long run.
(On another subject, this moment left me also with a big love of dubbed Disney movies. But that's another topic for another day.)

In any case, this bit of backstory serves to highlight the fact that languages and foreign countries have been the focal point of my personal passions and life aspirations for a very long time.
The "trouble," however, which I put in quotes because it should not be, but, unfortunately, often ends up causing it anyway, is that it's difficult for me to focus on any sort of field within those overarching realms which hits a sweet spot between just the right amount of generic and specific.
My greatest languages and countries of interest are often far-flung amongst themselves, and are often not related to great extents. Therefore I knew and was highly conscious of the fact, especially while exploring what I might do with myself during my college career during the application process, that it would be difficult to pick a major like "Middle Eastern Studies" or "Romance languages," for instance, as I don't have any one such specific area of interest in a particular language family or geopolitical region.
I've begun to realize within the last year or two in particular that I had a very idealized view of how my learning process would go when I was first falling in love with languages. When I was writing these long lists, I told myself that I would find some will or way to learn them all to the pinnacle of fluency. But as I've grown older, my passions have begun to settle a bit more on some in particular, and I've realized that, ultimately, it's likely I'll have to prioritize and focus my attentions on the ones that most call out to me for them. It's just that there's no real way for me to unite every single one of those on which my passions have settled - even if some of them are geographically close and/or linguistically related to each other, not all of them are.

In terms of thinking about what I'd like to do with my future, I admittedly feel a bit torn. On the one hand I might like to go into diplomacy or international relations in some capacity, dreaming of working in the Department of State or an international organization like the United Nations some day, in a distant and ideal future. On the other hand, I might like to pursue a position, most likely in the world of academia, where I could do linguistic research of some sort. Or ideally either try my hand at both at different periods, or find a way to combine them somehow.

My practical solution for the time being here at Beloit College has been to declare a double major in Russian and international relations with a minor in Spanish. I did this because, of the languages offered at Beloit, Russian and Spanish are the two that most interest me, and I figure that by having degrees in both languages and IR, and inserting myself into those two related but distinct academic realms, I hopefully will at least be giving myself the choice between these two careers that interest me.

Beyond these goals, these lofty aspirations which I know I will have to work very hard to dream of attaining, the future is riddled with uncertainties.
I know that I aspire to the aforementioned lofty goals. I know that I want to travel, to visit so many of these places and come into contact with their peoples, tongues, and cultures that have fascinated me for so long. I know that I want to learn so many of the languages I'm passionate about that I haven't had a chance to study just yet, like Finnish, Swedish, Korean, Hebrew, and Portuguese. I know that I want to perfect my knowledge of the ones I've fallen in love with but don't yet speak very well, like Turkish and Icelandic. And I know that I want to listen to my whims and attempt pick up random ones that interest me in the spur of the moment, like Afrikaans and Faroese and Farsi.
But in terms of the nitty gritty of what will have to lie between graduating college and achieving these goals, I don't know.

And I'm trying to remind myself, as I get a little more nervous about this fact as time passes, that it's okay not to know. It's okay to feel uncertain. It's okay to explore and experiment and learn new thins and make mistakes. It's okay not to have my entire life meticulously planned out in front of me.

But what I'm seeking to do is strike a balance between uncertainty and aspirations. Echoing a piece of advice that my lovely mother has been keen to give me as I've trundled through this whole process, "do what you love and the opportunities will reveal themselves to you." I'd like to think I'm doing decently with that thus far, and I will do my best to continue.

Thank you guys for being here and for reading my ramblings.

Take good care of yourselves. Do something that makes you feel good today.

-Nico

The World Affairs Center here on campus at Beloit, where I have my Russian and Spanish classes.




(An example of the sorts of dubs I mentioned earlier. Jeez, I still get goosebumps and teary eyes listening to it now eight years later.)