Ten years ago today, I graduated college.
As I sit here typing, I am trying to remember what I thought my life would look like then.
I was the first one in my family to go to college. I stayed in state, because it's what my family could afford. And I got a full scholarship, because that's what I was told I had to do. Blue collar kids don't get college savings accounts, and the fact I didn't have one made me work harder for the thing I wanted—which was to not be a plumber, like my dad. Don't break your back like I did. Those were his words to me. You're an American, take advantage that this is your country.
My bachelor's degree is in Latin American and Latino studies, an impractical major I chose because I wanted to learn more about the history and culture of the place my family came from.
There seemed to be so many roads then. The roads seem a lot fewer now, 10 years later.
Two months after graduating, I got married for the first time and moved to Knoxville, where I started my post-college career as a bill collector for a local bank. I worked part-time as a worship director for a church. I wrote and played music. I blogged about sports (usually writing while I was on the phone at the bank).
After two years out of college, I went to grad school for journalism, a discipline perfectly suited for both my curiosity about the world and my propensity for asking strangers questions. My inspirations were Wright Thompson and Gary Smith, who I'd read in an interview only wrote four stories a year for Sports Illustrated. That's what I want to do. It didn't matter that newspapers were dead. That people preferred 140 characters to 10,000 words. I was gonna do it.
I interned at ESPN in Connecticut and applied for every full-time job I could while I was there (I didn't get an interview for any of them). I eventually did get jobs where I got to write stories. I still get paid to write stories, for a university I had never heard of in a city I didn't know existed as a kid.
A decade ago I couldn't have predicted my life today. But, are any of us really where we imagined ourselves to be when we were younger?
My freshman year of college my favorite movie was The Motorcycle Diaries, based on Ernesto "Che" Guevara's diary from his travels around South America before his last year of medical school. One of my favorite lines from that movie is spoken while Guevara stares out from the ruins of Macchu Picchu. How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?
I don't often feel nostalgia for my college days. But I do feel nostalgia for who I was at 22. The world in front of me seemed so open then. I was younger than most of the famous people I admired. Now, I'm just year off from when my soccer idol Gabriel Batistuta retired. On social media I see people who are younger, wealthier and more famous than I am every day.
And yet I'm quietly celebrating. Because, there are still miles to go on this journey. For me, and for you too.