As a senior graduating some time in the near future, I’m here to share with you the greatest piece(s) of advice I’ve learned along my four years in college and 21 years of existence. I say pieces, because it’s hard for me to distill these instances down into a singular defining moment. So rather, I’m going to tell you about the path I went along to obtaining and internalizing these things.
I’d consider my identity unique, but I know it’s far from uncommon at UCLA. I’m the child of first-generation immigrants, who toiled to build lives for themselves anew, amongst great uncertainty. Fortunately for me, my parents were mostly successful. And since they (and the first-generational culture they surrounded themselves with) had discovered how to “make it,” they passed these formulas down to the second-generation (that’s me, and quite possibly you).
Most often these paths included the career arenas of Medicine, Engineering, Law, and Business — which is great if you are inclined towards and actually enjoy the above mentioned professions. But I never once had a second-generation friend who went to their parents with “I want to be an writer/artist/insert creative or alternative path here _____” and received encouragement. Instead, they would hear what so many immigrant parents tell their children: “_____ is not the safest route in life. We didn’t sacrifice all this for you to take up a precarious profession.”
That brings me towards advice piece #1. Hint: I am one of those people. I’ve been a high achiever my whole life and rather gifted at math and science. I pursued that safety formula for as long as I can remember, without really understanding why. Suffice it to say, I hit a breaking point halfway through college and realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my time at school, or in my life doing something I didn’t really enjoy all that much. I watched this TED talk by Larry Smith called Why you will fail to have a great career. In his talk, Smith speaks about passion being the driving force for a life lived to its utmost potential, and the difference between settling for mediocrity and a creating a truly great career.
After I heard Smith’s talk, everything kind of just clicked for me. I took his words and juxtaposed them with what my parents and their culture had been urging onto me. And while I accept that the thought process comes from a place of concern and compassion — they only want to ensure security and alleviate potential suffering for their children — I decided I could not settle for the formula for success (read: safety).
And that brings me to the second point of advice. In Smith’s equation, there is no room for safety. But deliberately placing yourself on the front lines of uncertainty is something easier said than done, especially when you have people around you questioning your choices at all times. I didn’t fully grasp the significance of my decision, or come up with a way to justify it to myself amidst anxiety and self-doubt, until I heard Dr. Brené Brown’s thoughts on The Power of Vulnerability. I know at this point I’m beginning to sound like I work for the marketing team at TED, but I don’t, I promise (although I guess that could be cool). I do, however, think these talks are among the site’s most popular for a reason.
Brown’s talk taught me one of the most important things I’ve learned in my life. It is that being vulnerable — I mean really embracing it as fundamental — is essential to attaining joy and fulfillment.
So where does this leave me now? Well, it’s almost going to be two years since I decided to deviate from my selected formula of safety (pre-med) and into a path more authentic and enjoyable for me (film school). I’m graduating soon, and even if the future may be a bit uncertain, I know that all will be well when I’m following and nurturing my passions with vulnerability.
Vesta Partovi | UCLA Career Center Peer Advisor