By Tam Nguyen
It's graduation season — a time for inspiring commencement speeches, proud parents and diplomas.
At University of Jamestown, seniors are excited about this. While graduation is a proud moment for any student, to some students they are now on the verge of another milestone – only this one involves big change. This milestone isn’t about just growing up; it’s about being a grown-up. Graduation says, “OK, world. I’m ready. Let’s see where to go from here. It’s time for change and I’m ready to show you what I got. It’s time to spread my wings and fly.”
But what if you have no clues of what you want to do in life, then what? What’s next?
The poem that I’m going to show you below from Taz Alam will speak for myself and you out there.
Firstly, let’s get to know Taz. Taz is a 22-year-old filmmaker who writes spoken word poetry on mental health, social issues, life etc. She was 22 when she was giving this speech at Tedx Talks, but before that, she was lost. After graduation, Taz didn’t know what to do with her life.
I’m currently 22 years old and I know many of you are in your 20s too, the most beautiful time in your life, isn't’ it? However, not everyone knows what he or she wants to do after school. One thing you can keep in mind is that you’re not alone and nothing is too bad or too late. Thus, this article’s not just for college students, but for anyone who is still trying to find the answers for their lives. Here it goes…
“Expectations will be the death of me
From day one we are told what is expected of us
Conform, go to school, get the grades
You have to be the best, no room to screw up
We put our fate in the control of others and wait to be judged
Define ourselves by grades and numbers
Forever believing that we’re not good enough
Because our actions do not match our expectations
We’re expected to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives at the age of just 16
Despite up until that point having no real-life experiences
I mean how could we, at what point we will be given the opportunity
The opportunity to grow as individuals, discover ourselves, live free from scrutiny
Teachers will tell you that if you want to make something for yourself then you need to go to university
It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t feel right, right now
Once you graduate, things will become clear
Six years on and I find myself here
Thoughts about my future terrify me
I can’t sleep or eat
It’s a reason for my dark thoughts at night that cause of my anxiety because I don’t have a five-year plan
And for some reason that makes me feel guilty
See, my biggest fear in life is to settle
Just a thought of it haunts me in my sleep
I’ve seen too many people give up and live a life full of regret and I don’t want that to be me
To choose stability over your dreams is to let society win and I can’t do that, I’m sorry
Get a nine-to-five job, buy a house, marry before 30
Work, eat, sleep, repeat – the average 21st century daily routine
No passional drivers, just living machines
The only motivation in life is making enough money
Ask yourself: Are you living or merely existing
See I’m 22 yet I feel like I know little about real stuffs
Like what the world looks like on the other side or how it feels to fall in love
Certain now would be to give up on discovering who I really am
I want to learn and explore and maybe I am just wasting time and nothing will come with it
I need to take that chance
I need to know for sure
I’m sorry but I cannot be who you want me to be
Because to do that will be sacrificing everything that makes me me and settle for a life where I’ll never truly be happy
I spent my whole life trying to please others
It gets tiring and lonely
And forever trapped by the expectations of society and I fear that I’d never escaped from this feeling
I am calm on the outside but inside I am screaming
See despite my best efforts, I don’t know what I’m doing my life
But my gut instinct tells me that the past you’ve got in mind isn’t right, at least not for me
My future should not be dictated by a degree I chose when I was sixteen because everyone around me told me it was the right thing for me
I look back now and I can’t help it but to disagree
But the truth is I say I have all these ambitions and dreams
I want to change the world and spread positivity
But pretty soon I will have to face reality
That doubts in my mind would take over and the passion inside would die
I surrendered to the pressure of society and I surrendered to a comfortable life – one with no hopes, no passions, no desires, just the same old routine
Never to know what it feels like to be ALIVE”
- Taz Alam
You know when Taz was talking about the issue that she had in the past, and what led her to the turning point of her life and made Taz as Taz today is by saying “yes” to a new opportunity. When you are stuck and don’t know what you can do or what you are even good at, do everything! Try new things so you can figure out your real potential. When a friend of hers introduced Taz to spoken poems, she decided to do it. Taz said “yes” to that opportunity, and it has become her full-time career that she’s passionate about.
Taz continued, when you know what is right for you and what you love to do, you start growing your confidence. However, in order to do that, you need to work on yourself, toward the needs of the goal you pursue.
Understand the importance of self-educating, and make it a hobby, not a homework. Taz taught herself skills such as writing, speaking in public, filming and editing, performing and especially communicating with others. Talk to people!
And remember to be open-minded. This is how you learn more lessons, you learn from one another. A man has thousands of stories to tell. Also, this is how you build your connection or your network because, in the end, it’s about who you know not what you know.
Get connected. In a world of technology like today, everyone needs to know a little about the Internet to get connected and social media marketing to be able to sell yourself.
Change your view of success. Define what is a success to you, a specific personal one. What you really wish for? What makes you feel happy when you do it? What you desire to do? What you desire to do to help others? Because in the end, all we got is us. It’s not just about you, and it never is. If you say you would be happy with a lot of money but no one is around you, then you’re tripping. A reason that makes a person live is to live for one another. The reason that makes a soldier a soldier, not because of the war but because he is fighting for others. He’s fighting for himself, but he’s also fighting for his people. A soldier lost his purpose of life when he lost the reason to fight for. According to Taz, success in her eyes is when someone from the other side of the world watches her spoken poem video online, and it helps them get through their days, then Taz is happy. She feels fulfilled.
Or if you are lucky enough to know what you have a passion for, then just go for it. Do it! You can potentially find something that you really care about.
It is important to take time to figure out who you really are. I want to end this article by simply asking the same question that Taz asked in her video: “Do you feel like the life that you live today, your job, your friends, what you do in your spare time, your hobbies, do you feel like all of those things accurately reflect who you truly are?” If the answer is no, then remember this, as Taz said, “Get out of your comfort zone and try new things, and DON’T SETTLE.”
Graduation season is around the corner, as a senior myself, I know how that feels. It must be a very proud moment for you. Chasing a dream requires your efforts and passion. Hard work isn't over when you graduate. It's just a break as you enter the new battlefields of life. Good luck and congratulations!