I'm officially an alumnus of Cornell University! What?? Woah.
The past couple days have been such a whirlwind - I've been seeing friends, saying goodbyes, participating in Senior Days events, going out to parties and bars, graduating, moving out, and now I'm settling down in my new home in Miami.
I haven't really had the time to sit and write this past Sunday's blog post - which I actually anticipated. Since graduation was Saturday evening, I figured I'd take a few days to process everything, get settled and then get writing so that I could give you a coherent account of emotions, feelings and memories from the past few days. And man, it's been so hard to process everything and actually sort out how I'm feeling about ending a chapter of my life and starting a new one.
Graduating is this mixed bag of emotions that comes with happiness from leaving school, sadness from saying goodbyes to your best friends, anxiety about what the future holds and excitement about all the opportunities that lie ahead. It's a lot! I know that a lot of seniors - myself included - pushed off feeling anything until the very last minute, because there really is so much to process. Right now, for me, there's so much going through my mind. I'm really fortunate that I interned at JPMorgan Chase & Co. last summer and received a return offer, so I've known for a while now that I was gonna go back after I graduate. However, I start work on July 24, so the biggest thing on my mind in the past few weeks has been this question of "what do I do between graduation on May 27, and my first day of work on July 24?".
To answer that question for myself, I went back to my word for the year that has been guiding the decisions I've been making and the future that I've been paving for myself all 2023, and that word is "stability". In the past 4 years, as most boarding college students do, I'm on campus for 4-5 months at a time, then back at home for 1-2 months during Winter and Summer breaks. It's always great to see my family that's holding down the fort at home, but after some recent meditation, I've realized that personally, for me to experience real growth, I need stability of place, career and mind. I need to be able to accept a booking for a performance 4 months in advance because I know I'll be there. I need to be able to plan long-term, and make plans that don't happen overnight or in 4 months. I learnt that about myself for the first time during the pandemic, when I had 8 months living in Jamaica and was able to develop my music career and build deep connections with other prominent musicians in the country because I knew I could attend rehearsals and performances far down the line and not have to decline because I'd be in Ithaca.
Right now, the word "stability" manifests in being in me being in Miami for now, rather than going home, or even travelling Europe or Asia or South America for a month like a lot of my friends are doing. It means having time to do "nothing", and letting myself experience freedom and a genuine space without responsibilities. After all, I just did a whole semester in Europe travelling and bouncing around the continent every weekend, so my itch for that is not super strong right now anyways. Especially as a creative, I'm looking forward to the next month and a half, where I'll be able to dig into things like music, art, writing, reading and really have the space to look for opportunities that will better myself as a person - not as a student, nor as a professional - but as a human being. I think that oftentimes I purposefully get swamped and make myself busy so that I can always have something to do, but graduating has made me realize that this kind of peace of mind, to be on my own - thinking and creating and exploring my thoughts - will be really important.
On another note, let's unpack graduation a bit. For those of you who don't know me personally, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics with a minor in Business. A question I always get at this point is - "why Economics?" or "what even is Economics?" And trust me, those are both completely valid questions, and usually I'd tell you something snarky like "I don't know either haha". In reality, the reason I chose to study Economics was because firstly, I hadn't ever taken Economics before arriving at Cornell so I wanted a challenge of doing something new, and secondly, because I also had no understanding of the economy, finance or anything business related when I started at Cornell too. In retrospect, studying Economics and working a job in finance has allowed me to understand a bit more clearly how the world works in terms of a global economy, capitalism and the various systems at play that cause things like buildup of wealth, inequality and in many cases the actual distribution of people throughout the world. For me, Economics was a glimpse into that reality that I know I would've missed if I had zeroed in on what my academic gut was telling me to study which was Biology.
I don't regret studying Economics, and honestly, to anyone who went to college, no matter what you studied, I don't think you have anything to regret either. As long as you learnt something useful - whether inside or outside the classroom - I think that's truly what a college education is valuable for. Let's be real, I can't solve a Lagrangian equation for you right now like I could in sophomore spring in 2021, but I can tell you that I definitely did learn how to do that, and understood that concept clearly and was able to apply it in the exam. It taught me how to be teachable. That class (Intermediate Microeconomics/ECON 3030) challenged me yes, but because of that challenge, I know that I'm capable of learning complex topics and applying them, and to me that's what I think my Bachelor's degree shows. Of course I learnt a lot about Economics as a field of study, but more so, I learnt how to learn, and I think that there's a lot of value in feeling that kind of growth and coming out of challenges knowing that you're capable. For me, it's important for self-confidence. It's important for me knowing that I can rise to the occasion when needs be, and I can tackle a challenge head on when it comes at me. That's not just important for jobs, but I think for life in general too.
Furthermore, graduating has also opened my eyes to life itself. What do I mean by that? When I was at Berklee, I noticed very distinctly how community can breed success. At Cornell, of course I know that the people around me drive me to pursue more challenging things and to do things that I probably wouldn't have if I wasn't in a competitive environment. Leaving campus for the last time, and for the first time being removed from an academic setting where the world feels small because it's your peers and schoolmates who you interact with all the time, I got this sense of newness. This sense of "I can do anything".
To be very honest with you, when I was applying to internships in the Summer and Fall of 2021, I didn't know the first thing about what JPMorgan was, what a financial analyst even did nor did I even care about a resume or LinkedIn. Being at Cornell, I had friends who I could see applying to banks like JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley etc. but to be very frank, I didn't even know they existed until seeing them on some people's LinkedIn profile. I don't know if it's because I grew up in Jamaica and those kinds of institutions are more movie-like fiction to me, but my first exposure to those companies was when I sent them my resume. So imagine me trying to explain "Why JPMorgan Chase?" in an interview, when I really had not the first clue as to why the hell I would want to work there or what it even meant. It was actually a few months after my internship had ended that I first heard the term "bulge bracket" used, because someone asked me how I got a "bulge bracket internship". I don't expect you to know what it is either if you don't have work experience in the financial sector, but as someone who completed a whole internship at a bulge bracket firm it was really telling that I didn't even know I worked for one.
Got a bit sidetracked there. The point here is that I didn't know what these jobs or companies were, and in retrospect, I definitely only applied to those banks because the other Economics majors around me and some of my closest friends were too. I was following the lead of people around me, and it sent me into this hole of the financial sector where I'll be starting my career. I say this to say that I, like many other people in their entry level jobs, am not sure if this is where I want to be forever. Graduating has made me realize that once I get out of that Cornell eco-system where everyone around me is working at those kinds of places, it really is just me. Me, working a job that I may not be super passionate about, with no sort of competitive force from a college community making me feel like that's the right step towards success for me. Who knows, maybe I'll love it and stick with it. But graduating has made me realize that if I don't, that's totally alright. I don't feel as much pressure to fit in with a community of Economics majors at Cornell securing jobs in finance or consulting after graduation. It's my life, and I have the steering wheel. That realization, while it might seem small and menial, has been really eye-opening and liberating for me.
All in all, talking about the thoughts I've had before and after graduation is a conversation that could go on for hours. The greatest thing about it though, is that the world is my oyster, and I think graduation has allowed me to realize that so much more than I could as a full-time student. I'm excited to have time to learn new things, have my weekends and evenings back to myself, and invest more time into personal development as a human being. I'm still learning how to be the best me - whether that means being the best son, brother, friend, mentor, mentee, employee, musician, blogger or speaker - but what's important for me in this moment is that I recognize the need to open my mind to growth, and give myself the stability to plant roots and thrive. So I look forward to the growth that I'll see in the next few months, and I'm excited to work especially on this blog too!
So until Sunday,