Me Myself and I

Here is An UNSCRIPTD Journey written by Cam Molina:

To all those twenty-somethings who have found themselves post-graduation not knowing what the f*** is going on or what the f*** life is about: please know that you are not alone. Having been done with college for a full year now, I can honestly tell you that I almost feel worse than I did initially after graduation. While the overall experience of graduating college ended up being nothing like how I assumed it would be, I was shocked to discover that post-grad life was even more confusing and scary than I could have ever imagined. When I say “confusing and scary,” I honestly cannot say that I was afraid of what I was about to experience, but rather lost in a sense that I had no clue what to do next. I feel like for the past sixteen years whenever someone would ask me, “What do you see yourself doing after you graduate from school?” there was always some type of answer I was able to give. I could always bullshit my way through a conversation about my future plans, or even resort to “I don’t know.”

What I realized after graduating from college was that despite the plans I had in my head or the desires I had in my heart, it all meant nothing unless I was able to answer one question: “What do I truly want?” And not as in what do I want to have or what do I want to own, but more so what do I want out of life itself. What is it that drives me? What is it that makes me feel passionate about my everyday life? Now, what I find interesting about answering this question is that typically when we mention what are we passionate about, we use that question to point us in the direction of a career or a “calling.” But what I recently came to realize is that very rarely do we find ourselves with one thing that we are passionate about. Let alone do we ever truly answer that question until we realize that there’s always going to be more than one answer to that question. I am 22 years old… I have no hobbies, no calling, and truth be told no one thing or activity that I can say sets my soul on fire. And while it may sound kind of sad, I realized that throughout my 16-year academic career, I never truly ventured out and explored myself enough to find out what I wanted out of my life.  Growing up I was always told I was going to move out, go to college, get a job, and that was it. Never did I ask myself what places did I wanted to see or travel to, what kind of girl I wanted to be with, or even who I wanted to be as a person. I let my parents, teachers, and coaches tell me what I was good at and while it definitely helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses as a person, I never truly got to know myself or even ask myself, “Who am I?” As a kid we don’t think of these things because we are too busy being kids.  Our mistakes were covered up by our parents so we rarely were able to ever truly learn from them.  Our true desires as kids were molded by what we were exposed to. To some extent, our idea of who we were was shaped by who we were told we were—the student, the athlete, the nerd, the artist, the musician. And while the opinions of those closest to you is for sure the best, when looking to truly get an objective opinion on yourself, eventually you realize that that’s all it really is…an opinion.  

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If you were to close your eyes, sit in absolute silence, and truly pay attention to every part of yourself, you come to realize one thing: all you ever truly have in this world is me…myself…and I.  “Me.” Your “me” identity is best representative of your mind and all the ways in which it has shaped you into the person you are today. Your “me,” in my opinion, is essentially your mental idea of yourself or how you see yourself through the lens of your mind. “Myself.” Your “myself” identity I feel is most representative of your physical being. Your heartbeat, your breath, your face, your figure, and every part of you that makes you the you that everyone else can see.  And then there is “I.” As I have come to understand it, your “I” identity is the deepest most inner part of who you are.  It is essentially what drives your conscious, as well as every single choice or decision you make. And while “Me” (your mind) can have a great influence on “I,” you eventually come to realize that you are not your mind. Who we are as people is determined by the sum of our choices and our actions, and while your mind has the power to persuade you one way or another, it is “I” who truly lives your life. If you can think back to the last poor decision you made, whether it was lying to a loved one, saying something mean to a close friend, or even doing something to hurt someone you care about, I think we can all admit that we knew what we were doing was wrong and shortly after possibly regretted that decision. I believe that the reason we are able to regret our actions and our choices is because deep down we knew what the right one was all along and we as humans decide to sometimes give into our mind. We believe that what we think or what we feel is who we truly are, when in truth these are simply momentary lapses in consciousness that allow us to be blinded by the world around us and absorbed into the toxic society we were raised in.

Next time you are walking down the street, I encourage you to take a look around you and observe how many people’s faces you may see that just look angry, tired, or simply unhappy. I’m sure you’ll notice a substantial number of frowny faces as opposed to happy ones. It’s interesting that in a world where all anyone wants to be is happy, we find ourselves frustrated, stressed, and anxious more times than not. Our society over time has taught us that in order to be happy you need things, money, and status, and I think what post-graduation has taught me as an individual is that those are not the things that bring you true happiness. And while it’s easy to say, “Duh…no shit,” if you truly look at your life and your current goals, you’ll find that a lot of people do not truly know why they are doing what they’re doing. Specifically coming from Columbia, I found what drives the average Columbia graduate is the question of “How much money can I make coming out of college?” There are plenty of kids I know that spent 4+ years of their Columbia experience slaving over schoolwork, relentlessly competing in the classroom, and interviewing countless times as a means of finding that perfect internship just to get a job further down the road. And if you think about what a job is…it is nothing that truly matters in the bigger scheme of your life, but rather that it is purely a way to make money. The money that buys you that loft apartment in NYC, that allows you to go out every weekend and buy beers for your friends, that gets you the newest shoes or the nicest clothes.

When we replace the value of our education with how much money it can make us down the road, we eventually realize there’s always going to be something better or something more. You’ll find that you can never reach your goal because your mind will always be moving the field goal further and further back the closer you get. For a while this is what I did and I found that every time I accomplished my goals, there was always something else I thought I was missing. It became a cycle where once I got something, it was never good enough; there was always something more that I wanted. Slowly but surely, I began to feel very unhappy and angry on the inside. I was never able to enjoy my hard work and truly reap the benefits because all I ever did was check the boxes and keep moving onto the next thing. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to create new goals and challenges for ourselves, it is important to recognize that as a society we glorify the grind and lose track of why we are even grinding in the first place.

When I got out of college I had little to no idea what I was doing. Having been born and raised in Ashburn, Virginia, land of the spoiled, home of the wealthy, I realized I had no desire to go home and be around all the same faces I had left four years ago. I wanted to move forward, but had no idea in which direction I was going. Rather than being able to enjoy finishing one of the hardest four-year journeys I could ever imagine, I found myself sitting at my commencement ceremony angry and pissed off at the world because I had no clue what I just tortured myself for. In the middle of my graduation ceremony I got up and left. My best friend and I had gotten trashed the night before and although I was battling an absolutely dirty hangover, I wanted nothing more than to just go sit in my soon-to-be ex-dorm room and think. As an over thinker with an incredibly large ego, I began to become very angry, sad, and confused.

A week after graduation I moved into my grandmothers one-bedroom apartment where I would end up sleeping on her couch for next six months. While all my friends went off and traveled the world or took long vacations to tropical islands, I found myself in Hackensack, New Jersey working part-time at a Mexican restaurant making $3.50 an hour. Here I was, a 22-year-old graduate from Columbia University with a four-year degree, bussing tables for a bunch of boujee Jersey folk who could honestly care less about who the f*** I was or what I had just accomplished. It was during that time that I came to realize that no one cares in the outside world about your degree, how good you were at football, or how hard you had worked to get where you are. It’s all about what you can do for them. And while the truth hurt to come to understand, I found it to be a very humbling experience.

I had been playing football since I was six years old, and I knew from the age of ten that I wanted to play college football when I grew up. All of my friends and I ate, slept, and breathed football from the time we were in Pop-Warner until the time we graduated high school. However, it wasn’t until I actually got to college to play football that I realized that unless you truly have a passion for the game, you’re never going to make it to the next level. Not to toot my own horn…but ya boy was a dirty ass running back in his hay day. Sike. I was nothing special, but to be honest my team wasn’t very good so I got the ball a lot which made me feel like I was special. My first two years I put my heart and soul into the sport still thinking I went to an Ivy League school to play football as my career….Ha.

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It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year that my world got shook a little bit. As a result of getting mono and being incorrectly prescribed lidocaine for my throat, I found myself bedridden for two weeks in my dorm room barely able to breathe or move. Within a week of being prescribed the medication, I woke up one morning to find that I could no longer walk on my own. My legs had become so weak that I had to make a cane out of my lacrosse stick and limp over to the medical center to figure out what the f*** was happening to me. After multiple visits to the campus doctor, I eventually found myself at the start of week two of my illness in a bed at Mount Sinai hospital being treated through an IV for what they believed to be Guillain-Barre syndrome. Now for those of you who don’t know, which I’m assuming is almost everyone, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a neurological disease in which your immune system attacks your nervous system and eventually works its way to your respiratory system, shutting down your lungs. Thankfully the disease was identified early enough, otherwise it’s unclear as far as what would have happened. To be 100% honest, this disease was one of the best worst things that could have ever happened to me. I was in the hospital for a little over a week and underwent daily rehab and IV treatments in order to strengthen my legs just so that I could walk on my own again.

To add a little context to this story, I contracted this disease in May of 2014. Upon leaving the hospital in June, I was told that this could take anywhere from six months to a year to fully recover from; as you could imagine I was distraught. My junior season was right around the corner and I was in line to be our starting running back for the upcoming season. As far as I was concerned, this was my year. When I got out of the hospital I was left in the care of my ride or die (literally) best friend who discovered an experimental treatment for this particular disease. Now, anyone who knows me, knows EXACTLY what this experimental treatment was, but I’ll save that for later. In July of 2014 I began workouts with our strength and conditioning coach and somehow managed to miraculously make a complete recovery by the start of training camp in late August. Even my team doctors still do not understand how I did it, but I had one of the fastest recorded recoveries from this syndrome noted in any medical journal released on this particular disease. Again, if you know me, you know exactly how I did it.

Long story short, in a span of three months I had lost almost 30 pounds of muscle and had little to no hope of getting back to my 200 mark where I sat in late May. By the first game of the season I weighed 185 and felt like a whole new person. I felt lighter and faster on my feet, and although I was a bit more fragile, it felt like my body had just rebooted itself. That season we went on to lose all ten games. Despite how much of blow that was to our program, I was awarded Second Team All Ivy honors at running back that season. I say this not to gloat, but to explain that it really isn’t how you start, but how you finish that determines who you are as a person. By senior year, I thought I had mastered the whole college thing which is why when I left college I found myself back in a place of confusion and fear. However, it is interesting how powerful fear can be when you know how to use it.

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Like many of us who graduate without a plan, I wanted what I saw everyone else had—my own apartment, my own car, and a steady well-paying job. While I was sleeping on my grandmother’s couch for those six months, I remember I would go to sleep every night angry and sad because I knew I wasn’t there yet. I felt like I had failed myself because I hadn’t lived up to the Columbia standard of post-grad life. My best friend was off traveling the world, my girlfriend was home for summer vacation, so I was virtually alone most of the time with nothing to do but think. Again I say for an over thinker with an ego, time to think is one of the most torturous things that can happen to you. Eventually in October of 2016, I found my first full-time salary gig. Since June of that year I had been working three jobs just to try and save up money to move out and finally live up to what I thought to be the standard of an Ivy League graduate. I don’t exactly know why, but even though I saw plenty of people go back home to live with their parents and work to save up money, for me it just didn’t seem like it was enough.

Fast-forward to when I finally saved up enough money to move out, I found myself in a nice ass apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey living with two of my best friends from college. While it felt so good to finally be off my grandmother’s couch and finally living independently, within a couple months I found myself right back where I was in this weird mental state of depression and I didn’t know why. It was so frustrating. I had finally gotten everything I wanted and I still wasn’t happy. I would talk to anyone and everyone who would listen just to try and figure out what is was that I was doing wrong. It seemed like everyone else had their life together, meanwhile here I was living on my own with all the freedom in the world, yet still completely miserable on the inside…it didn’t make any sense to me. I tried everything I could think of to pull myself out of it because deep down I knew I truly had nothing to complain about, but that damn ego of mine just couldn’t get passed it. I wanted more.  Truth be told I didn’t even really know what more was, but I wanted it.

Naturally, I turned to wanting more money. I wanted to start saving so that I could start planning my next move. I had been saying since my freshman year of college that I had always wanted to go to California…still do. To be honest, I think my soul belongs on the west coast but I love each and every single person in my community here in the east. Within a few months, I found myself working another part-time gig as a bartender despite making more than enough money to support myself. Looking back on it now, it truly doesn’t make any sense why I decided that was a good idea, but I had convinced myself at the time that if I had more money I would be happier and have the freedom to save and do what I really wanted to do: move to the west coast. What I quickly came to realize by working that job is that it doesn’t matter how much money you make if you are investing more time into making money than the money itself is actually worth to you. Rest assured you will never consider yourself to be successful if you are living this way. Sure I loved having some extra pocket change here and there and I was certainly able to spend a little more freely, but it wasn’t until after the first month that I realized that I literally got a second job just so I could spend more money. I wasn’t even saving! Which brought me to my next question, do I even know what the hell I’m doing with my money? I was making more than enough to support myself and yet the more money I had, the more ways I found to spend it.

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This cycle quickly put me right back in the same place I was before—sad, angry, and confused. Despite the fact that the company I was working with at the time wasn’t all that great, my bills were getting paid and all of my needs were met…so again why was I so sad and angry all the time? It wasn’t until recently that I learned something new about myself… This isn’t what I wanted. This is what I thought I wanted because it’s what everyone else around me had and was doing. Having enough money to do things you want to do is great but to be honest no truer words have ever been said, “mo money, mo problems.” It took me a few weeks to really sit back and assess my situation before I realized that I’ve known all along what I’ve really wanted to be doing, but I kept letting the distractions and the bullshit overwhelm my day to day mindset. Rather than figuring out a plan and investing time and money into the things that I knew would help get me where I wanted to go, I would sit around and smoke, or go drink, just to numb myself to the anger and frustration I was feeling on a day to day basis. It didn’t feel good what I was doing to my body but it’s what everyone else was doing. I understand that it is completely normal as a twenty-something to want nothing more than to get f***ed up with your friends and have a good time as often as possible, but I guess that’s what I realized about post-grad life—there was a time to do that. And I did it. And now it’s over. There’s no more structure, no more practice, no more class, no more accountability to ANYONE but myself. What we don’t realize is that it’s harder to hold yourself accountable to yourself than it is to other people. Personally, I was always held accountable for my actions for the sake of the team, my family, or my school’s reputation, and now I find myself a year out from graduation with nothing but Me, Myself, and I.

I’ve come to realize that the 3 of us is all I got in this world to be accountable to. While it’s okay to hold yourself accountable to your friends and family as a means of doing right by those you care about, if I ever truly want to experience happiness on a normal basis it would start with me focusing on what I want to achieve in this lifetime. Deep down, “I” know what I want to do with my life.  It’s always there in the deep center of my chest asking me, “What are you waiting for?” and the voice that truly speaks to me isn’t in my head. “Me,” your mind, is what allows you to become distracted by the smoking, the drinking or the money, and it is “I,” your intuition, that leads you to true happiness.

We as members of society have become so absorbed by our minds that we never take the time to stop, assess, and appreciate our situation. We are always looking on to the next thing or the next goal. While I know personally that the west coast is where I’m going to end up, the destination is never the point of happiness—it’s the journey. My journey has brought me a long way from the college football player from Ashburn, Virginia. But where I am now in my life, as the Columbia post-grad with no f***ing clue what he sees himself doing in five years, has made me realize that it is perfectly okay to not know and to be confused every now and then, and that the stress and the anxiety that come with it is all self-inflicted. I remember those dark lonely nights sleeping on my grandmother’s couch, but it’s the freedom of being on my own and living in my own place that I’ve truly always wanted and it’s about time I started to enjoy it. I really have no clue what I will be doing five years from now, let alone this time next year, but I guess that’s the interesting thing about being young, dumb, and broke…you’re really not supposed to know, you just have to learn to enjoy the ride.

This is my UNSCRIPTD Journey,

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