I turn 22 on Monday. I’ll complete an internship I’ve loved on Dec. 5. I graduate eight days later. It’s no surprise themes of change and growth have pervaded my recent writing, morphing from thoughtful commentary to trite ‘motivational’ sayings and back again.
You know, that dreadful ‘artwork’ that lined the hallway of your elementary school? I’m talking the posters with vague words like “perseverance” or “determination” in some, “I will bestow knowledge upon you, young peasant!” font.
Amid all my meditation on change and growth, it’s easy to overlook the ways in which I haven’t changed. As a life writer/perpetual reflector, I like to think of myself as some ever-evolving, improving being. I’m in college, after all, the socially sanctioned place for visceral transformation (Sounds like something in a university mission statement, doesn’t it?).
Exploring the ways I haven’t changed in the last three-and-a-half years isn’t admission of failure but of humanity, of the beautiful fact that identity is fluid, forever evolving and forever the same, all at once.
The self, I’ve learned, isn’t something one can organize or color-code, as I do every other aspect of my life. It’s darker, messier. Maybe that’s why I’ve spent the last four years writing about my life and others’ lives. There’s eternal tension on the page no matter how fancy my word choice, no matter how ‘smart’ that Hamlet reference.
And perhaps most importantly, there’s tangibility in experience that organically guides me beyond it, a space that permits me to explore past and present identity in conversation rather than isolation.
While my understanding of identity has evolved, my journalistic philosophy hasn’t changed, thanks to late Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication professor Rick Tapscott. Even as new forces, new stresses, new pressures emerge (Cue the now-expected, “So, Taylor, do you have a job? Are you dating anyone? Have you bought a house? So are you ruling your own country yet?” OK, kidding about the last two.), Rick’s wise words echo daily in my mind, a constant amid the chaos of almost-post-grad life: “It’ll all work out. It always does.”
Nearly a year after his death, I have yet to completely shift from present to past tense when I refer to him. His gruff, concise wisdom meanders its way through my life both in and beyond the newsroom, a classic Rick one-liner the remedy for my 20-something angst.
I admit I’ve questioned my career choice numerous times in the past year. Even on the days I struggle to piece together my words on the page — the act to which I’ve dedicated my existence — I return to the Rick quote that has influenced my life more than any other: “If you go into journalism for the right reasons, it’s a fun and honorable profession.”