Oh, what the future may hold

Published 10:57 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just like most 20-year-old college juniors, I really don’t know what I want to do with my life.

As a public policy studies major at Vanderbilt, my career could really take one of several courses, from law to journalism to education to consulting to government. With so many options, I don’t know how I will ever decide exactly what to pursue. And I feel like I am running out of time.

This summer, I interned both as a staffer for Sen. Jeff Sessions in Washington, D.C., and as a reporter for The Demopolis Times. While the things I learned on Capitol Hill are both numerous and significant, it’s what I learned at the Times this summer that has helped me decide what I want to do with my life.

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I came to the newspaper to practice writing and try my hand at journalism. I am leaving with a clearer focus about what direction I want my life and career to take. These lessons have been gathered from the most likely and unlikely sources.

I learned that, whatever I do, I want to do it for what I believe in. On June 30, a man named Sihn Tho Nguyen walked through our town on his journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Nguyen is raising awareness and appreciation for our troops and nation. He also wanted to prove to young people that “they can do something that is bigger than themselves.” I decided that I want to do something that is bigger than myself.

I learned that, whatever I do, I want to love it enough to do it for the rest of my life. I interviewed Dr. David Mellown about his 50 years working as a dentist and was overwhelmed by his still unwavering passion for his work.

Dr. Mellown continues to receive satisfaction in helping his patients, even half a century later. I decided that I want to enter a career that I will continue to have passion for 50 years from now.

I learned that, whatever I do, I want to use both the trials and blessings of my life to reach out to others.

Bradley White began the local ministry “A Time to Share” after experiencing a troubled youth and realizing that he had a capacity to help others in need.

After talking with White and the organization’s president, Grace Clayton, I decided that I, too, want to share what I have with others.

I learned, from several other encounters and interviews that are too numerous to list here, that, whatever I do, I want to always look for the deeper meaning, the underlying story and the unrealized impact of every person, place and situation.

I decided that I want to appreciate that which is not always apparent.

This summer, the people and stories of Demopolis have shown me what I want my future to look like, regardless of what specific career I pursue.

It really doesn’t matter what I end up doing; all that matters is that I positively influence the bigger picture.

And I am incredibly thankful I learned this before I ran out of time.