I graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism on Dec. 10 and, like every other graduating senior at NAU, I cannot believe how fast my time in Flagstaff has lapsed.
I ordered my cap and gown in mid-November and sent invitations to my family, who will be eager to ask how I’m breaking into the real world or what my next professional endeavor will be. And I don’t have a succinct response to either of those questions.
Oddly enough, I’m not stressing at all about what my future holds. That’s something I’ll decide when I am prepared to do so. I now feel like I have the space to do that – to sit and think about where I want to go with no external pressures weighing on me. This newfound leverage to make decisions that impede on nobody’s time but mine is freeing.
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When the months leading up to high school graduation crept up on me in 2018, I felt suffocated filling out my ECAP, or my education and career action plan. Every Liberty High School senior had to do this in the semester before graduation — before the end of the school day at 2:20 p.m. You picked two or three majors you were interested in, filled some vital information out, then the sheet was sent to a handful of colleges of your choosing.
I obviously cared about my future and knew I couldn't make an adequate decision this life-changing without ample time. Not knowing anything about myself aside from my hobbies and interests and how much I loved to write about them, I was instructed to map out the next four years of my life. I was stressed and angry at how little time I had to think or talk about this. On the contrary, I could've been more serious as a senior, but I was too busy being a high school kid. I don’t remember if I followed that panicked plan, but here I am still writing.
I know who I am now and thankfully, my latest “action plan” doesn't have a due date — it sure as hell isn’t 2:20 p.m., the end of today or the year even. In 2022, I’ll be taking a gap year to be close to my siblings and decide what I’ll do next.
Last year and the one preceding, I watched as friends I met through doing journalism at NAU graduated, overzealously threw themselves into the workforce and felt burnt out sooner than they expected. These are friends with high school and college careers just like mine. They wrote for their high school newspaper or yearbook, studied journalism at NAU and became a professional reporter with little to no time between those three. As someone who’s feeling a bit of that burnout already, I know I need some time to gather myself. Why touch the stove if I just watched some other people burn themselves in pursuit of good?
All I’ve been concerned with since I was young was getting A’s in school because education always comes first. It’ll be nice to not worry about that while I’m taking this gap year. I wish I had taken one right after high school. I might’ve been better off.
Of course, I want to be successful in my relationships, financially and in spirit — that’s all I’m after in life and it’s been that way since high school. The only thing that’s changed since then is those goals are no longer tied to time.
Over the last 30 days, I published my last issue as editor of The Lumberjack, and this is my last column of “College Chronicles” at Flag Live! For me, November and December have been full of lasts, but it is now time to graduate and experience a lot of firsts. I’ve fallen in love with Flagstaff in recent years and I’ll be sad to say goodbye, but I just cannot wait to learn, grow and love harder than I ever have after I walk across the stage on Dec. 10. New endeavors and challenges are my favorites, especially when there’s no need to rush.
Nathan Manni is a first-generation senior at NAU about to graduate with a degree in journalism. He just wrapped us his time as editor-in-chief of NAU's student paper, The Lumberjack.