This summer, I turned down a D.C. summer internship and spent three months recording an album in my hometown of Quito, Ecuador. I took two months to compose my songs, one week to practice them, one week to record them and two weeks to perform them live. The first copies of my album were printed just two days before I hopped on a plane back to D.C. Is that what most people here at Georgetown would say was a smart decision? Probably not.
At Georgetown, we are constantly met with a considerable amount of social pressure pushing us toward a certain version of success. Many times, I’ve found that we measure success by the number of internships, student organizations and academic achievements listed on our resumes. This comes at the expense of ignoring other ways in which you can make yourself and others feel fulfilled (since what is success without fulfillment?), especially in nonbusiness fields. Music and the arts at Georgetown are a prime example of that. If you’re a musician (or artist) on this campus, you can surely testify to this statement: the arts and their value on success are underappreciated by the general status quo. That’s just the way Georgetown is.
But this summer, I learned that I didn’t have to be that way. I can guarantee that I learned far more about the meaning of success by playing guitar for an entire summer than I would have had I taken the internship.
When I asked for advice about my summer, most people I talked with seemed to view the idea of pursing an artistic endeavor as an unpractical, perhaps even childish, decision. “You’re an adult now and should make smart decisions, even if you don’t fully like them,” was the advice I seemed to get. But my own inner voice, as well as advice from a few others (who I now realize share my own vision of success), told me that the right decision is not the one others tell you to make, but the one that your own dreams point toward. I knew that in Ecuador, I would face a challenge that would point me in new directions and help me learn from some Ecuadorian musicians I truly admire. I didn’t see a forced summer internship as something that would allow me to grow in the same way.
I listened to my own true desires, and it was the best thing I could’ve done. Sure, I didn’t become a renowned musician overnight, but I was happy, and I learned a lot about my own capacities — how it’s possible to do something that seems unlikely and stupid at first. I found that success is more gratifying when you achieve it doing the things you love.
Following your true passions and gut feelings, wherever they may take you, and tackling social constructs or obstacles in your own way can produce results you’re truly proud of.
There is no greater feeling of success than when you achieve something people thought you couldn’t — or shouldn’t. I learned that making something from nothing (a piece of art, a poem, an LP) can teach you so much more about your capabilities than following a preset path to success. Here’s the real catch: the only person who truly knows what will bring you success is yourself.
Don’t get me wrong; if you feel that an internship will fulfill you and your passions (and there is great value in working in the professional world), you should absolutely go for it. But, if my summer experience taught me anything, it’s that breaking the status quo and listening to your own desires can go a long way and make some of your dreams come true. So, when this school year ends and you have to figure out what to do with your life, just know that if you’d rather spend those next months playing guitar, that’s an equally good decision.
David Alzate Proaño is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. You can find his album at http://odyssnyx.bandcamp.com/album/on.
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