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Study What You Love And The Money Will Come Later

By my senior year of college, I was already done with my major and was left with the question, “well, what do I do now?”  I decided to study what I love (art!) instead of taking a few business classes because it was the last time I could.  “The money will come later,” I told myself.  After all, I was Captain of BC Mock Trial and on the law school track immediately after college.  I would just need to endure 3 more years of ‘colligate hard time’ and then I would be swimming in cash money right?

And then the Boston Marathon Bombings happen.

That morning, I was working for my university during “BC Christmas” (as we liked to call it) in the sophomore area; corralling drunk underage students around campus and making sure they didn’t pass-out in their own vomit. It was the typical glamorous RA lifestyle.  This year, Boston College had over 200 kids running and basically half my CrossFit Box (Reebok CrossFit Back Bay) was in the mix too.  I was emotionally invested and would have been cheering them on at the finish line had I not had to work that day.  This is how I know fate is real.

When the calls started coming in, I excused myself and had a nervous breakdown in the privacy of my own room.  I let all out.  The anger, the sadness, the fear.  And then I wiped off my mascara and prepared for one of the hardest days of my life.

For the next 6 hours, we corralled, comforted, and gave out as much information as we could to 800 grieving residents.  There was a MASSIVE effort on Google Docs to locate/identify missing runners and we circled the document among our floors and they circled it around their various social media platforms.  If there’s one thing that Boston College is amazing at, it’s coordination.

After some self-reflection and therapy sessions, I realized that if anything would have happened to me that day, I would have been so freaking pissed.  After 21 years of living, what had I accomplished?  What did I have to show for myself?  Who did I impact?  What was my legacy?… Debate nerd. Did well in school. Went to college. Planned on going to more college. Died.

My obituary would be such a drag.

I was so caught-up in having a “plan” and preparing for the long-haul that I stopped living in the moment during the best years of my life.  I will never be this adventurous and brave again; and I wanted to squander that promise in a dark law school library? I had no kids, I wasn’t married, I had nothing keeping me there but the idea that I needed to fulfill someone else’s definition of success.

So I said eff the lemons and bailed.

DCIM105GOPRO

I traded up law school for China and started using my graphics and computer skills for work.  During my last year of college, I took up 4 art classes and two creative writing classes and that’s what inspired Wander Onwards and ALL of my production contracts around the world.  Photoshop and Illustrator gave me the skills I needed to feed myself and pay my bills even though I was playing catchup since others are SO much more talented than I; but I never gave up.  I kept building my skills and developed my writing into a brand that I could be proud of. And that made me money.

I recognize I’m not rolling in cash or living la vida loca AND that I would have made 6 times more as a lawyer, but what else would I have had to show for it?  A savings account?  Multiple broke relationships?  A horrible sleep and work schedule?  In the last two years alone, I’ve been to 12 different countries on my own.  TWELVE.  For all those who are trying to get to 30 countries before 30, I’m probably going to lap you in the next year at a whopping 23 countries at only 23! Get at me bro.  I’m not saying that I’ll NEVER go corporate some time in the future, but right now, I’m just trying to participate in the world around me.

Recently, I’ve been posting pictures on my Instagram about participating versus just observing.  Observation is nice.  It’s a start.  It’s a way to ‘see the world’ literally, but it’s still missing out on a wealth of information about how the rest of the world works. By participating in the world around you, you could be bringing back valuable cultural and social knowledge to your home-country that could help someone somewhere understand that not everyone from country X is obviously a Y and practices Z religion.  This blog has allowed me to be a window to worlds unknown for some people and you deserve to be a fountain of information as well.

There is a time and a place for everything.

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When you’re young, you have a sense of durability and fearlessness that can’t be replicated when you’re older.  Bones start to become brittle, the mind eventually starts to decay, and more likely than not, you’re going to have a family that depends on you for financial, emotional, and physical support.  Life just happens.  Just before and just after you finish college is really your best bet to do what you love.  Because what if you make it?  What if you triumph?  What if you fall, but what if you FLY!… and when will you ever have the chance to figure it out again.

Whenever someone asks me “how did you start?” my answer is always same: I just started writing.  One word turned into an article.  One article turned into a series.  A few hits turned into a thousand unique readers.  1200 words turned into 5.2 million views.  Essentially, I do what I want when I want to and I don’t look back.  In a very Vanessa-like fashion, I’ve moved around the world on whims and hunches that there was something more waiting for me somewhere else.  I didn’t know what it was or if it would be better than what I had right now, but I knew I had to find out.  The mystery is part of the adventure after all!

So what should you do at college then?

I think the most important thing to focus on during your time in college is the development of your skills.  Learn how to use different computer programs, develop your understanding of languages, and be sure to have some sort of skill-set to fall back-on in case of unemployment because that’s what has screwed our grandparents’ and parents’ generation.  They lack the skills that a digital-age workforce demands and many of their professions have become obsolete due to the rise of technology.  Don’t put yourself in the the position to fail.  Learn how to write, learn how to web develop, and learn how to use Excel!  With ONLY these skills, you could open your own small business and free yourself from the shackles of having a 9-5, if you so decide to do so.  And if you are hired into a job that you have zero technical experience in, chances are that your superiors will provide you with the assistance you need to achieve.  So why study something you hate?

Trust your gut.  Trust in your ability to keep your head above water.
Because there will never be a “perfect” plan.
Accept it, relish in the mystery, and then,
wander onwards.

***

Check out more photos like these on Instagram! It’s my fav.

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About Vanessa Elizabeth

Vanessa Elizabeth is a cultural chameleon currently based in London. She enjoys sports (such as CrossFit and dating), cooking, and demolishing her savings account. When she's not busy blogging about her feelings, she works full-time and practices Chinese with her English/German friends.

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  • Christian Anthony

    I got in a car accident where I was staring death in the face when I had the same realization you had. I was 20, hadn’t done much but be a slave to the American educational system, always did what society said I should have done with no real story of my own. A year later I packed my bags and did a mini version of your globe-trotting before residing in my current location 😉 You inspire me! Don’t ever stop please!

  • Alien&Vampire

    Inspirational, I wish I could print it all and hang it on the wall!

  • Aaaaaaaah!! Lovely!! I loved it, I loved how you wrote it, I loved the way you branched out multiple messages from one, and I loved how it reassured me that I’m doing fine and I should keep chasing my dream to travel.

    Thanks for writing this 🙂

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  • Love this. So envious of your travels!

    As unfortunate as it is, sometimes it takes a real shock for us to realize that what we’re doing is on the wrong path. I’m glad you were able to change yours for the better and live a life that you enjoy every minute of; that you’re proud of. What a lifetime accomplishment. 🙂

    Indeed, Wander Onwards. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this great story!