Late Jobs still connecting dots for college students

Since the announcement of Steve Jobs’s death, the Internet has exploded with memorials and tributes via Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and more.

He was instantly remembered for his contributions to the technological world — from his ability to design products so user-friendly even a grandparent could enjoy them to his role as a leader who would accept nothing less than perfection from his employees.

While I love my Mac’s design and wouldn’t doubt Jobs’s leadership legacy for a second, those aren’t the things I’m going to remember him for.

Glossing over the “RIPs” attributed to Jobs on my Facebook newsfeed last Wednesday night, I was reminded of the 2005 commencement address he gave at Stanford University. In the last few days, it’s had over 15 million views, but I first came across a transcript of the speech about six months ago.

Around that time, I was suffering from recurring chest pain.

So I went to a doctor and had an X-Ray, which turned up normal.

She explained the pain was likely stress-related and asked if there was anything that was making me feel particularly strained.

There was.

That December, I was sitting in my bed thinking about the future, on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I was afraid I had chosen the wrong major, which in turn would have an effect on my career path, which in turn was going to determine my future, which in turn made me very frightened.

Since high school, I wanted to be a journalist.

But with the industry in quite a dark stage and with an uncertain future, I chose global studies as a compromise with my parents.

As it turned out, the courses interested me, and I found myself thinking about becoming an international journalist.

But my mom’s pressure went further; she still encouraged me study something “more stable,” like accounting or speech pathology. I knew I wouldn’t be happy with a career in either of those fields.

But that December night, I found myself contemplating how I could still become a speech therapist.

I was ready to trade in my dreams for a steady paycheck … maybe.

Kind of. I thought so.

I wanted to take a semester off to plan things. But come January, I went back to Champaign, hardly registered for any classes.

Then the chest pain started. And it continued, along with my worried thoughts, throughout the semester.

This is where Steve Jobs comes back into the story. One night in April while taking a break from studying, I came across his commencement speech online.

He tells the story of his decision to drop out of college after only one semester. He didn’t have a clue of what he wanted to do and also couldn’t bear the thought of wasting his entire parents’ savings on something he “couldn’t see the value in.”

But he trusted things would work out. For a while he would sleep on friends’ floors and collect 5-cent cans for money to get by.

But you can’t “connect the dots looking forward,” Jobs told the audience.

“You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Of course I had heard versions of the “believe in yourself” line before, but when I read that, it struck me.

I saved the speech in a folder somewhere and prayed the encouragement running through my veins at that second would stick with me.

I ended up keeping my major and started writing for the paper.

But I’m not going to lie. Being a senior immersed in job applications and with no clue where I’m going to be a year from now, I’m still afraid.

When I heard about Jobs’s death, I immediately found the speech and reread it over and over.

My favorite piece of advice:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

A year from now I may be collecting 5-cent cans too, which will be painful. But I know it won’t be nearly as painful as the regret that will come with choosing a career that doesn’t fuel my interests.

I have faith that even though I can’t see the dots, the lines will connect.

Maybe I’m naive, but maybe naivety is one of the greatest traits a young person can have.

It gives me the courage to take that advice — to follow my heart and intuition — knowing everything else is secondary.

_Rebecca is a senior in LAS._