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Expectations vs. Reality: Reflections on the First Six Months After Graduation

I learned one lesson from the college graduation day that I did not attend: expectations hardly ever become reality.

I graduated from college in May 2017, but unfortunately was not able to attend the day I had spent the past four years working so hard for. Less than a week before the big day, I was diagnosed with strep throat and pneumonia, and given about four different prescriptions.

When the reality sunk in that I wouldn’t be able to walk across the stage with my cap and gown and have the graduation day I had dreamt of for so many years, I cried. A lot.  Although my friends and family were very understanding, it somehow did not ease the sadness and disappointment I felt.

I write about the expectations and the reality of my college graduation day because, the more I think about it, the more I realize it illustrates the journey of a college senior entering adulthood and, most importantly, the journey one faces in his/her first post-grad year.

The expectations for adulthood started way before graduation. There was a lot of pressure, from both myself and the people around me, to have my ducks in a row in time for college graduation. The questions from my friends and family were all the same: What are your plans after graduation? Do you have a job? What will your salary be? Where will you live? They never seemed to stop. It made me think that getting a job immediately, moving into my first apartment and living the “perfect” adult life were the only options I had.

This was all exponentially heightened when my friends and I actually earned our diplomas. I felt as if all of my friends were moving through life at warp-speed, checking things they needed to accomplish in order to become a “real” adult. On Facebook, I would see posts of friends getting new jobs or moving to new cities, and found myself immediately hitting the red ‘X’ in the corner of my screen due to pangs of envy, pressure, and failure filling my chest.

I desired that “perfect” life more than anything. I thought that all of my newfound freedom would give me time to start crossing books off my ‘to read’ list. I thought that earning money would allow me to not feel guilty about eating my way through every brunch place in the city. I thought that it would finally be time to have a social life perfectly curated for Instagramcomplete with close friends from college and many fun nights out in our nation’s capital. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would even finally meet a nice Jewish boy who would be parent-approved.

However, none of this happened.

Instead, my reality was spending all of my free time looking for a job instead of reading for fun. My reality was saving my money to spend on things I needed for my new apartment instead of spending it on brunch. My reality was saying goodbye to some of my closest friends from college as they started their new chapters away from DC (where we all went to college).

Now that I have been out of school for six months, I find myself reflecting a lot on my experiences since that day I missed my graduation in May. While it might not be exactly what I expected, the reality I currently live is still pretty great. I have found a great support system in DC (shoutout to GatherDC’s Mini-Gatherings for helping with that). I have continued to explore and experience all that this city has to offer. I have continued to learn about myself, and what I want out of life.

In the past six months, I’ve learned that it’s okay if the path I end up paving for myself differs from the one I expected to follow, as there is no right way to go about things.

Your priorities might be different than the priorities of those around you, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong. Decide what is important for you to focus on, and commit to it. For me, that has been spending time with friends, and finding ways to live a Jewish life that is authentic to me.

I also learned that the choices you make are not permanent. It’s not the end of the world if you realize a decision you made turns out to not be the right one for you. It is important to be comfortable with change, and be able to go with the flow.

As I ponder what the coming six months have in store, I feel ready to greet them, even if my reality is different from my ideal.

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Bryna Kramer is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. She is originally from the small, southern town of Danville, Virginia. She’s been in D.C. for just over four years, as she moved here in 2013 to attend American University. When she is not busy covering the Wizards on a nightly basis or hosting her own podcast, Meet Us At Molly’s, you can find her binging television or brunching her way through the city. Follow her on Twitter.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish Advocate of the Week – Ben

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Ben was nominated as Jewish Advocate of the Week by fellow Tufts alumni and Jewish Foodie of the Week, Julie. I had the opportunity to ask Ben about his diverse interests, how they come together in his work and life, and of course who his favorite Jew is! Learn more about Ben in his interview below.

Know someone who you think should be Person of the week? Nominate them!

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

Ben: DC is the third city I have lived in; I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and went to school in the Boston area. In my mind, these three cities are very similar. They are of a similar geographic size, have fantastic cultural institutions, and have strong communities (Jewish and otherwise). I spent a summer in DC while I was in college, and knew I could see myself living here afterward. During my senior year, I was able to find a job in the city.

Jackie: In college, you studied Peace and Justice Studies and Physics. What drew you to these polar opposite pursuits?

2016-09-04-12-37-10Ben: The first time I walked into a physics class, I fell in love with the subject. Math had always come easily to me, but I found it boring. With physics, math finally had a use and a fantastic one with that! Early physics courses so clearly translate to our experienced reality (mechanics, magnetism, etc.), that I was able to apply this framework to my universe in a way that thrilled me. I felt compelled to learn as much as I could about the subject.

However, I’ve always had a commitment to doing something for others beyond myself. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and there has always been a nagging within me to make sure I make a difference in the world. Tufts University, where I attended college, offered this interdisciplinary program in Peace and Justice Studies, which I was immediately drawn to. I viewed it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” major, as I was able to take courses in philosophy, anthropology, English literature, sociology, among many others. Rather than studying two disciplines, I could study five or six – but with a common thread. By the time I reached my senior year, I attempted to combine these pursuits: what is the relationship between science and society? My thesis attempted to justify government funding for scientific research, and my capstone explored the public understanding of scientific language. In my mind, they aren’t polar at all.

Jackie: You now work as a lobbyist. What causes are you advocating for?

2016-08-02-07-55-10Ben: This certainly was not a job I ever expected. I work exclusively with institutions of higher education, research associations, and laboratory facilities that are nonprofits or public. In essence, I advocate for continued public investment in scientific research. Given my background in physics, I work more on the physical sciences side, including engineering, energy research, and “smart cities.” Since WWII, the federal government has been one of the biggest funders of research on a spectrum from basic (think, discovering the Higgs Boson) to applied (think, making solar panels better). Universities and scientific societies do a great bulk of this research, and it’s important to make sure that Congress is supportive of science.

Jackie: How do you pursue your interest in Urban Planning and architecture?

Ben: This is a personal interest that I have been pleasantly surprised to also work on it in my day job. Pittsburgh (my hometown) has changed significantly over the past 30 years, not unlike many major cities throughout the U.S., including Washington, DC. There are whole wards in DC that look nothing like they did 30 years ago, and while that can come with significant benefits, it also can hurt residents who live here and who have lived here. During the Obama administration, a confluence of events led to an increased interest in cities. Open data initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels have made cities “smarter,” insofar as they are more efficient in delivering services. A number of cities have hired Chief Innovation Officers to help integrate technologies into their cities. I’m fascinated by how cities will change in the next 20 years, and getting to work with “anchor institutions,” such as universities, that are studying and changing their own cities has been a great experience. I also tend to do a lot of reading, with City Observatory, The Atlantic’s City Lab, and Planetizen all being great sources.

12961539_10154232286153968_5784365337675715953_nJackie: What do you like to do for fun in DC?

Ben: It’s incredible how much DC has to do. I try to frequent the museums as often they have new exhibits. The National Portrait Gallery/National Gallery of American Art is a favorite, as is the National Building Museum. A number of friends from both Pittsburgh and Tufts have also moved to DC, so it’s also good to see them, either grabbing a meal, walking through Rock Creek Park, or having them over for Shabbat Dinner.

Jackie: You have been on many world travels! Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled to?

Ben: Favorites are hard for me. I was just in Colombia, though, and that was an incredible experience. I traveled alone for a week in Bogota and Medellin, and so enjoyed my time there. Medellin has changed so much during my lifetime, and it was incredible to see.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Ben: Again, favorites are hard, but among Jewish historical figures I think I would go with Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… it is sure to be interesting!

What to do tonight and tomorrow.

To keep you from harping all night on the next round of the Jewish Guy and Girl of the Year Competition (I know, I know… it’s coming… the submissions will be made public tomorrow), I suggest occupying yourself with one of these events:

1) ADL Happy Hour Fundraiser; 6:00 to 8:00 PM; Dirty Martini (1223 Connecticut Ave.)

2) Making the Crooked Straight — The story of an exceptional, life saving Jew. Tonight; 7:00 – 10:00 pm; E Street Cinema (555 11th Street NW); Movie and discussion; facebook; register.

3) Latke-Hamentasch Debate; Tomorrow; 7:30 – 9:30 PM; Adas Israel;