To fellow seniors: Trust process, learn to accept failure
February 1, 2021
My fellow senior Illini: This is the last dance, the last semester before facing the realities of an intimidating work world or intense graduate program. Given your drive to even make it this far, you likely have some goals for yourself moving forward. These aspirations may include some measure of success in your given field, whether it be a high rank or high salary. While I know we are all high-fliers all aiming for the stars, I want to exercise caution on getting ahead of yourself. Unless you hit the lottery or you are David Dobrik, you are not guaranteed success and wealth in your 20s. Life gives no guarantees, but you can increase your chances of landing that prestigious job or apartment you’ve been dreaming of by lowering your expectations. Realize that this process of life, especially in your 20s, is an ongoing journey.
“The Great Gatsby” is a fantastic cautionary tale of the perils of expectations. As the story goes, Jay Gatsby throws grandiose party after grandiose party in order to grab the attention of his long-lost love interest, Daisy. Each night Gatsby would look out of his window at a green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, longing for her. However, when he finally gets Daisy in his house, Gatsby is faced with intense disappointment. He finds that the reality of actually meeting Daisy pales in comparison to the romanticized, flawless expectation he had of her while looking at the green light. This light, which also represents the mystified and unreachable nature of the American dream, is a symbol of how real life will never live up to how we imagine things. This is a cautionary tale on managing your expectations. Realize that the success you are longing for is a lot like Gatsby’s idealization of meeting Daisy, and it likely will not be the end-all-be-all. Also, success is not going to come in some pretty, flawless package. Instead, it should be the journey along the way that you live for. Instead of truly enjoying his extravagant lifestyle, Gatsby would idealize how much better it would be if Daisy were there to enjoy it with him. Rather than chasing something unattainable, find a way to enjoy whatever part of the path you are on right now. I promise you; the success will come later. Although Gatsby’s unrealistic expectations were ultimately what caused him to feel defeated, he perhaps did not have the same pressures around us that we do today.
Today, social media is our green light. Everything posted on social media is shown through a filter in which you are seeing somebody at their prettiest, healthiest and perhaps happiest. This, in turn, gives us false expectations of what our own lives should look like. We only see the product of peoples’ success rather than the struggle along the way. This leads us to believe that we are the only ones experiencing these unpleasant realities. What social media doesn’t show you is the beauty in learning from life’s defeating moments. The attractive, successful influencers you may compare yourself to have had their own unique journey full of ups and downs, too.
Matthew is a senior in AHS.