investing in the future

I've come to learn that the most difficult thing for me to manage as an adult is my long-term future. For the first 21 years of my life, I had a lovely road map to follow, laid out by my parents, which focused primarily on schooling. I reached my final destination in record time and in good standing. Since the end of that journey, I've had little success in determining where exactly I want to go from here. My heart says to the stage. My head says up the career ladder. So which one am I supposed to listen to?

One thing is still for certain: come next year, I am leaving California. I'm continuing to lean toward New York for its performance opportunities and its alluring life style. But today, over an impromptu lunch with my parents, yet another opportunity presented itself to me.

I have never seriously considered going to grad school. Three and a half years at Berkeley were enough to last me a lifetime. And being the quick learner that I am, I always assumed I'd build a career for myself on experience alone. That's how my parents did it, after all.

But things are changing. In order to be a competitive job candidate, education is quickly becoming a necessity. And my parents want me to be a stakeholder in the future of our society.

We talked about what I could pursue; I immediately disregarded business, which I don't believe suits me and having been burned once, I don't plan on doing it again. From a personal standpoint, I would love to delve further into vocal performance but really, where is that going to take me? Then coincidentally, my mom and I simultaneously offered public health - an obvious choice considering it's the field I currently work it, but something that had never crossed my mind before. Once it did, it really started to make a lot of sense considering my undergraduate degree and my own interests in sociology and community health.

Then other ideas started popping into my head. During my sophomore year when AiR toured the east coast, I fell in love with Columbia University and lamented the fact that my parents didn't let me leave California for my undergraduate degree. During lunch with my parents, I remembered they had a school of public health and mentioned it. My parents agreed and offered some other schools back east. We had fun thinking of all the possibilities, none of which included California. As I made my way back to work at the end of the lunch hour, I thought about how great living in New York would be with the freedom of an academic schedule and my proximity to 42nd and Broadway.

Granted, applying to grad school terrifies me, let alone attending. Subjecting myself to that abstract mode of thinking is not something I will easily do. Moreover, there are the requirements I'd have to meet that I never previously thought of preparing for: the GRE, personal statements, letters of recommendation, not to mention getting a loan for my tuition. So is this really something I want to do?

Let's just say I'm doing my research.

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