William and Mary

Alumni Blogs

The Anti-list Manifesto

March 11, 2014 by

Ten things every human should know:

1. Love is the essence of life and all understanding
2. Spend time with yourself
3. You will get out of life what you put into it
4. Sometimes the things you thought were the biggest mistakes turn out to be the greatest blessings
5. Carpe Diem
6. Try new things
7. Explore the world
8. Reach for the stars
9. Pause. Breathe. Exhale.

And then?

10. Throw out numbers 1 thru 9…

Challenge the status quo by taking over-simplified bullet points and turning them into complex words and paragraphs that take energy to decipher. Push yourself to articulate observations and integrate experiences that speak to your heart through rich meaning and understanding. Refrain from speaking generally and instead focus on the various resources and opportunities that call you to action. Break the social norm and bring a new light to former lists that provide a framework for how to live. There are infinitely more than “20 things that every 20-something should do.” Get creative. Think for yourself. Inspire knowledge within by seeking opportunities that captivate your soul.

Use these lists as a guide, but do not take them for fact. The most dangerous trap is taking something at face value and believing it just because it’s convenient. Be wary of easy. The easier the challenge, the less opportunity for growth. When you want to resign to lists, ask yourself why? Your motives provide key clues to your actions and ultimate outcome.

Simple is easy to digest, but it is also easy to contradict. It is easy to agree with and easy to forget. The word itself defines its potential and perpetuates apathetic engagement.

In a world ripe with information, it seems silly to settle for simple. I understand the value of removing distraction and “getting to the point”, but I refuse to think that people should orient their lives around something as concrete as a list.

I believe there is beauty in descriptive words. There is beauty in explanation and reflection. Imagery, alliteration and detail provide our imaginations with thoughts and ideas to deliberate and discuss. Words bring definition and power to otherwise meaningless observations. Words explain, define, create and elaborate on experiences that enrich our lives and grow us into the individuals we hope to become.

Live in list and you’ll miss your life. Live in the moment and you might just be surprised at what you’ll find…

9 Things No One Tells You at the College

January 23, 2014 by

1382849_10201519835829154_1407268290_n

The Sunken Garden

 

To my incredibly talented and inspiring Tribe Family:

1. You’re not going to get straight A’s anymore. It’s a terrible thing to realize, as many of you are used to being the top in your class. However, the courses at the College are downright challenging, so there’s no surprise there. But guess what? You don’t have to be perfect, because no one is. Just keep in mind that grades do not define you or your character. Do your best and put in the effort, because that’s all that is asked of you.

2. Pick a few extracurriculars to join, but don’t go overboard. Like many of your peers, you’re probably used to doing a million things at once — and excelling at all of them. However, it’s important to know how to balance your classes, work and student activities. When I was a student at the College, everyone I knew seemed to be taking 18+ credits, holding down one (or two) on-campus jobs, and serving on the executive board for almost every organization they were involved in. And while many were able to juggle it all, a majority of them sacrificed sleep, healthy habits, and just plain time to themselves. Be passionate about what you do, but don’t forsake your personal well-being.

3. The trek between Morton and Wren will always take you the full 10 minutes between classes. That’s just how it is. Even if you’re on a bike, it’s still going to take you a while to weave through and dodge pedestrians.

4. Don’t go to Swem during midterms/finals. Trust me. Swem is crowded with other students who are constantly on edge, or haven’t showered, or worse, actually packed all their meals with them for that day and refuse to give up their computer on the second floor (yes, I will admit to doing the latter once or twice…). No shame. Still, there’s no sense in stressing yourself out searching for a study spot, unless you don’t mind camping out on the carpet. There are other places to study, so feel free to change it up every now and then. Empty classrooms, computer labs (my favorite was the one in the ISC), dorm lounges, the Barnes & Noble Bookstore, and more, await you! Plus, it’s nice to get a change of scenery.

5. Do go to Swem during other times of the semester. It’s actually a really nice environment to do work in, and for some, to socialize. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on a crucial part of the W&M experience. Plus, you’ll always find a study table that meets your standards and is adjacent to an electrical outlet.

6. If you find someone’s lost ID, go to the Directory. You can type in their last name and email them directly to notify them of your discovery. It just makes their search so much easier – they won’t have to search all of the front desks on campus, nor retrace their steps from the past couple of days. Plus, you’ll have to meet up with them to return their card to them, and there is nothing wrong with making new friends!

7. Take advantage of the Rec Center (and running trails if you’re the outdoorsy type). Students need only present their student ID to gain access to the facilities at the Rec! Looking back, I wish I had gone much more frequently (3x a week would have been a good goal), because I would have established much healthier habits for myself sooner. After you leave college, you actually have to pay for a gym membership, unless you live in an apartment complex with its very own gym.

8. Purchase a CW cider mug at the beginning of the year (since it’s January, do it now!). You’ll get free refills for the remainder of the year! And if you’re 21 and up, invest in a Green Leafe mug. You’ll thank me later.

9. Are you, or is someone you know, going through a tough time? Go to the Counseling Center. I can’t emphasize enough just how underutilized this resource is. Can you believe it took me until my sophomore year to realize that such a place existed? It wasn’t until I was in crisis mode that a kind language professor suggested I make an appointment there; I’m happy to share that I ended up attending sessions there until my senior year. I participated in individual counseling and later transitioned into group therapy (the latter being my most memorable experience at the College). There are other services there, as well, including couples and family counseling, outreach programs, and resources for helping a friend in need. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. You won’t be penalized, you won’t be judged, and you won’t regret it. After all, when you break a bone or catch a nasty virus, do people tell you to not go to the hospital or clinic? Of course they don’t. They tell you to seek medical attention immediately, if not take you there themselves. The same is true for your mind. If you have mental health concerns, address them! Take care of that beautiful mind of yours. 

Hope these were helpful. I know I wish I learned them sooner. If you have any additions or rejections of any of the above, feel free to share your thoughts by commenting below or emailing me at rmtanap@gmail.com.

Cheers,
Ryann

The Hand You’re Dealt

January 17, 2014 by

Sometimes we find ourselves in an unpredictably difficult bind trying to figure out what move we are going to play next. We weigh the options in front of ourselves considering the possibilities, the ramifications and the consequences, but cannot predict the ultimate outcome. With our best poker face we navigate decisions – both simple and complex – that affect our lives and the people that we become. We understand that the game is played differently by every player, yet we seek the knowledge of those before us to create a frame of reference for our choices.  Still, we must remember that an identical hand will unfold in a different manner every round depending on the other cards at the table.

When you are born you are handed a set of cards. It is up to you to decide when and how to play them. It is at the opportune time, at the opportune moment that you reveal the trick of the hand.

So, save the shiny card. Hold onto the Ace. Humbly keep your greatest asset to yourself as a quiet strength that grounds you and reassures you of the choices that you make. There will be times in your life when you want to reveal to the world the things that have made you successful in your own right, but wait… one thing that you will begin to recognize is that your life, your choices, and actions are a reflection of your confidence. Have the will to believe in yourself. When you hold the power, you chose your fate. But the minute you let that go…

The greatest poker players never reveal their hand. As the round finishes they quietly place their cards face down on the table, keep to themselves and remain collected. They might look back and wonder what would have happened had they played a different card. Sometimes they have regrets. We all do. The next time the same situation arises they consider it twice before folding prematurely. Even if it is an entirely different circumstance, the same hand will solicit a warning of a possible missed opportunity. Be aware of these moments. Just because something potentially was right in a certain context once-upon-a-time does not necessarily mean that the outcome will be the same. Be wary, yet optimistic. Skeptical and hopeful. Calculated and willing to risk. Have faith in your cards and faith in yourself. Have faith in the hand that you’re dealt.

When the Real World Shuts Down

October 4, 2013 by

Walking through the streets of Washington, D.C. there is an air of uncertainty that permeates all that we do these days. This uncertainty is accompanied by a skepticism and distrust in government that I have never felt before. It is disheartening, this feeling of uncertainty, yet I understand the frustration that many people are feeling. People are disenfranchised by the inability of the government to compromise or agree.

Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address that the United States should be a government by the people, for the people, and of the people. Our public officials were elected to office to represent the voice of their people, to stand for bills and policies that would help the American Public, not put 800,000 people out of work. So, who is to blame? The media has pointed fingers at our congressmen and women- the people who are slaving hours on end to negotiate a resolution to the budget and debt crisis. Yes, congress is polarized with strong personalities who have made the news for their opinions, but I am optimistic they are working on our behalf to make positive change. Many people say that it is Obama’s stubborn stance on Obamacare that has created this mess. The truth? No one REALLY knows… It’s not the answer that any of us want to hear. Everyone thinks that there has to be someone or something to blame in order to put those pent-up emotions somewhere.

Well, here’s the truth: it’s the system. The system that allows us the freedom to debate. The system that allows us to share our opinions. The system that gives Congress the power to decide our fate as a country. The success of our country is built on this system. The liberties we have are a result of this system. The problem is that as well as this system functions, there are occasional mishaps that cause major Government shutdowns.

This is not the first time that the government has shut down, and I can guarantee that it will not be the last. Rather than become jaded by the United States government, I have decided to take a different approach. What I recognize, is that in order for there to be some sort of change, people are going to have to let go of their ego; something that will not happen voluntarily. Instead, come October 17th the threat of defaulting on the Debt will be so great, and there will be so much external pressure on Congress to act, that they will have to compromise. My hope is that there will be an agreement sooner, but there is no way to know. The best I can do is put my faith in the people who are working their hardest to make things right.

You might think that I am living under a rock speaking favorably about the Government in this time of crisis, but I still have hope. Hope persists despite the uncertainty, despite the shootings, the riots, the shutdowns and the crises – hope persists when the real world shuts down, because hope is all that we have.

7 Helpful Tips for the Job Search

September 11, 2013 by

Long gone are the days of cold calling (and emailing)! It’s time to take matters into your own hands, with a refreshed perspective.

By now, I’m sure you’re all experts at applying to college (and maybe internship and jobs as well). However, there are some things we may overlook or forget. Below are seven tips for all those navigating, or preparing to navigate, through the seemingly stagnant sea of unemployment. These tips are also for those seeking an alternate route from their current career path. The following aren’t necessarily a perfected formula to get you hired, nor do they lead directly to the dream job of your choosing. However these tips provide insight on how to be proactive and vigilant while steering through the job search.

1. Make a road map of everything.

Here's one of my past road maps. I do these as an exercise to reevaluate my goals and values.

Here’s one of my past road maps. I do these as an exercise to reevaluate my goals and values.

If you don’t know exactly what your calling is (that’s okay, no one has it all 100% figured out during, and even after, college these days), then it’s time to take a step back. Construct a visual that encompasses you as a person. Look at the big picture. It’s more than just a resume – it’s seeing if what you already have aligns with what you envision for yourself. If they don’t, then outline the steps to get there. This can be in the form of a list, diagram, drawing, collage, or whatever helps you to visualize your goals, and the steps to reach those goals.

As you prepare to create a road map, consider the following questions: What do you want in your next job? What experience – including work, internship, volunteer and leadership – do you have? What are your most important goals and values? How can you tie in everything to lead you to those goals, while staying true to your values?

Some things you may want to highlight include your:

  • Assets (degrees, work experience)
  • Career Goals (graduate programs, the type of job you want, the hours you’d be willing to work, preferred environment and locations where you’d like to work)
  • Interests (professional/personal interests and how you are working towards said interests)
  • Guiding Principles (personal values, Life Values inventory, causes you want to stay involved with)
  • Personal Goals (actions you vow to take to improve your emotional, mental, emotional and social well-being)

Try to do this exercise a couple times a year, to see if your goals are shifting and to keep track of your progress.

2. Polish off your CV (and other application essentials).

Compile a giant CV (even if they’re more so for established professionals) that contains all of your work experience, education and skills. Provide as much detail as possible (careful to not over-exaggerate or misrepresent yourself, it will catch up with you later).

For your resume: If you are exploring more than one professional field, make different versions of your resume, drawing from the comprehensive CV you already have.

For your cover letter: Again, if you are exploring more than one professional field, you’ll find it helpful to have different versions of a cover letter to tweak as needed (once a job application comes around).

3. Network with everyone, even if you don’t think it’ll lead to a job prospect.

Most jobs and gigs we get result of a connection that we have. It’s all about the people that you know. Having that road map and CV updated will help you to clearly voice your career goals, as well as the direction you’d like to go in.

Contact friends, family, professors, former employers, colleagues, mentors, etc. Update them on your interests and experience and ask for help, and to pass along any info they may come across.

Reach out to people who already specialize in a field you’re interested in. Pick apart their brain. Ask about their experience, as well as any advice they’d be willing to offer.

4. (For current students and recent graduates) Take advantage of all that the W&M Cohen Career Center has to offer (workshops, networking days, office hours, Alumni network, etc.).

Not enough students utilize the Career Center! There are many opportunities, often free! One event that graduating seniors should look out for is the Etiquette Dinner. Registration goes by a first-come, first-serve basis, and allows students to learn about proper etiquette for formal or professional meetings over meals, dinners and special events.

If you’re a recent graduate, you may use the Career Center’s resources for up to two years after graduating. Don’t squander this opportunity.

5. Apply.

Easier said than done, but it’s no use sifting through the countless applications you’ve come across if you don’t sit down and start filling out the application. And if you did Step 2, then you’re at an advantage.

6. Ace the Interview(s).

If you are notified that an employer would like to interview you, be as proactive as possible. Respond on time. Ask questions. Show that you’re genuinely interested in the position, and are looking forward to the interview.

While preparing for the interview, do your research (especially if you didn’t when you were applying). Be knowledgeable of the organization/business/firm. Know their mission statement, core values and projects they are working on. Prepare questions you anticipate the interviewer will ask you. Prepare questions you want to ask the interviewer (about the position, the organization, advice, etc.).

Following the interview, send a thank you letter (if it was a panel interview, send a letter to each individual who interviewed you), stressing your interest in the position, as well as your qualifications that would make you the best fit.

7. Follow Up.

Upon receiving a response (hiring or rejection), reply promptly and courteously. Even if you didn’t get the position, express your interest in working with the organization in the future. If the interviewer is able, ask them to notify you of future openings that they believe would be a good fit for you. Don’t sever ties with them simply because you were rejected. Maintain contact, especially if you’re still interested in that particular organization. They may even be able to refer you to other positions with other organizations. Keep your options open.

W is for Wedding

August 27, 2013 by

29890_1433031397006_2429220_n

Allison graduated in 2009, but stayed at the College for a year as an Americorps volunteer until I graduated in 2010.

In two days, I am flying from Johannesburg, South Africa to Washington D.C. to celebrate my best friend Allison’s wedding in northern Virginia.  This is the story of our “soul friendship” and the way that William & Mary inevitably introduces its students to the people they need the most.

Allison and I met in Morton Hall in our Comparative Politics class in spring 2008.  Truthfully, we never really met.  Allison approached me one afternoon, introduced herself, and revealed that she had orchestrated an interview for me to join her as a teaching fellow for a fall 2009 civic engagement seminar for Sharpe Scholars.  (If this isn’t the definition of a nerdy beginning to a William & Mary friendship, I don’t know what is!) A few weeks later, I met with Professor Schwartz, was accepted for the position, and the adventure began.  Allison and I were promptly joined at the hip inside and outside the classroom.

2566_1139933783056_795616_n

Allison came to Rome with me in spring 2009. Here we are on Palatine Hill.

Allison has a penchant for intellectual conversation, surprises and relentless compassion.  During our time together at the College, Allison and I found ourselves on sand dunes in North Carolina, exploring Rome over spring break, surrounded by friends at surprise birthday parties, celebrating holidays together with our families and eating way too many cupcakes.  We talked without end about civic engagement, political theory, existentialism, feeling lonely and finding love.  We were nurtured by many of the same professors and challenged each other academically.  We were surrounded by friends who taught us to be better friends and family who taught us to love, to have patience and to persist.

I was honored to speak at a dinner with former Chancellor Sandra Day O'Connor in attendance, and Allison came with me.

I was honored to speak at a dinner with former Chancellor Sandra Day O’Connor in attendance, and Allison came with me.

After I graduated from the College and Allison finished her year as a Americorps Vista, we both moved to California.  I began Teach For America in San Jose as an elementary school teacher, and Allison began her PhD at Stanford.  For two years, we were pieces of home to each other though we lived 3,000 miles from our families and our beloved college.  I had the pleasure of watching Allison’s relationship with her now-fiance Andy flourish.  Andy moved to California to join Allison and proposed last year.

When you meet a soul friend, you know it.  I moved to Johannesburg 13 months ago, and Allison is still one of a handful of people who know me best, with whom distance doesn’t matter.  And while to William & Mary readers, this might seem normal, know that it’s not.  William & Mary is a place where the relationships you cultivate last.  As Convocation for the Class of 2017 happens this week, my hope is that these same important and lasting relationships have already begun during Move-in and Orientation.  I am grateful that my alma mater is a place where great people meet and build a foundation for a lifetime of friendship.

Go Tribe (and congratulations, Allison!),

Bailey

Welcome Class of 2017 – Define Your Dreams to Determine Your Future

August 27, 2013 by

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington I thought it appropriate to address the Class of 2017 with a promise on the power of dreams…

I remember fall 2009 when I moved into Spotswood along with 72 other freshman dreamers excited about where the future would lead, somewhat anxious to meet new friends and build a reputation, and curious about what the next four years would bring. As time passed, we grew more comfortable with one another and realized that we would spend the next four years learning and growing alongside of these people and hundreds of others. We learned that our horizons would be broadened with each passing day, that we would be challenged to think in entirely new ways, and that we would define our dreams in the context of this brilliant academic setting.

To the freshmen – now is the time to dream. Now is the time to set your sights on the most ambitious feats that you can imagine and chase them. Tell yourself that you can, and you will. Make connections with professors (they are there for YOU!), pursue your academic pursuits passionately, take time to reflect on the emotions you are feeling now, and don’t ever forget them.

For many of you, this is the first time you have experienced what it feels like to establish a reputation for yourself individual of your parents, family or other associations. You can chose who you want to be – what a beautiful thing! Use this time to try new clubs, push yourself out of your comfort zone to meet new people, and make the most of every activity. You get out of life what you put into it, so I would challenge you to meet every day with a happy heart and a courageous mind and move forward knowing that you are going to ROCK W&M.

You were selected because you are one of the finest students in the country. You are highly capable, brilliant and well-rounded. The Class of 2017 brings one of the most diverse, dynamic and bright classes the College has seen yet. Get to know your classmates. Make a point to build community.

As an alumna of the College, I also want to remind you that by joining the Class of 2017, not only are you joining the 5,000 undergraduates who you will study alongside of for the next four years, but you are also joining a network of thousands of William & Mary alumni who are here to help you. We were all freshmen once and remember what it feels like to travel through this period. We are here to provide help, mentor-ship, advice and whatever we can offer. The incredible thing about W&M is the College community extends well-beyond your four years in Williamsburg.

Welcome to the Tribe, Class of 2017, welcome to the Family.

Jaded.

August 22, 2013 by

Day after day I am bombarded with news about wars raging, violence ensuing, natural resources depleting and crises destroying lives of millions of people. I sit on the metro, tears welling in my eyes, feeling so small in a world that is consumed by distress. I stay up late nights making sketches of solutions to these problems consistently met with challenges; lack of resources, connections, people, and mostly, time. How do you effect change if you are just one single person in a sea of thousands?

  1. Recognize that the hero’s of our world didn’t get there by chance. They didn’t make a name for themselves by passively sitting down and waiting for the next big thing to happen. Maybe there was a stroke of luck, but they rose to the challenge. They saw an opportunity and they chased it. I am inspired by those people who recognize an issue, understand that they are only one person, but work to mobilize groups – sometimes thousands – for a cause they believe in. You might only be one person, but you are one person with a voice.
  2. Set yourself aside. The human mind only has a capacity to empathize with a select population of people, but empathy can also be created and bred through experience. It is easier said than done to pick up your life and go move to a place where you can experience poverty, turmoil and conflict. I’m not asking you to do that. Instead, think about what people in these situations are feeling. Try to imagine what it would feel like to come home to a house where your family was victim to a chemical weapons attack… you step over the bodies of the people you love most in this world, realizing with each passing moment that every single one of them is dead. Put yourself in the shoes of a rebel fighter struggling with every thing that he or she has for a peace that they may never know. Picture yourself walking for days to seek refuge in a neighboring country with a single bag of belongings, knowing that you may never be able to return home. The process of learning to empathize will create a deep passion to bring about change that will continue to motivate in the toughest times.
  3. Understand that the news is subjective. As consumers of the media, we have a responsibility to deduce truth, and form opinion based on our most objective interpretation. The goal of the media is to solicit a response – whether negatively or positively – to a situation. And while we like to think that the news is entirely objective, like any private corporation, these agencies need to stay in business which means they have to “sell” the news. Stop and think about it. The day that the Washington Post reported that a drought was killing and displacing thousands of people in Somalia, Casey Anthony was on the front page*. This should tell you something about the priorities of the news.
  4. Finally, BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN. The thought of becoming jaded horrifies me, which is why I will continue to write blogs like this to remind myself that we are all capable of perpetuating good in this world. If we all became cynical about our ability to create change, no one would ever get anything done. There are millions of people who work long days and dedicate their lives to making the world a better place. To those individuals, I solute you.

If you take away one thing from this message, it is that you have great opportunity to make a difference. You can be the change. You can be the inspiration. The hope. The reminder of good. The positive light in the darkest places. Don’t ever forget that…

Reaching New Heights

August 20, 2013 by

After graduating a few months ago, I returned home to my friends, family and seasonal job. All three things are reliable staples of my hometown, and have become new routes that lead back to my experience at William & Mary. There is a fountainhead of W&M alumni that have migrated to DC from Williamsburg, and many of them eclipsed my time at the College. My first weekends back in town were spent reliving the glory days with friends from high school and fellow W&M grads. We shared stories about campus experiences, and the challenges and rewards that awaited me as a new graduate.

The transition back home felt a little odd, after being away at school. This summer many of my friends had left their hometowns, starting new careers or traveling abroad. On the other hand, I returned back to my parent’s house to bide my time until starting grad school. I went on several interviews looking for something within my field of art education with limited success. My achievements were coming at slower pace than my time as an undergrad, and I admit that I was frustrated as well as a little confused. However, I settled back into my routine of working at my seasonal job at a local rock climbing gym, and my summer regained its initial momentum.

I first became involved in outdoor recreation as a freshman at W&M by taking a class called Adventure Games. I recommend it to any prospective or current student as a fun class to spice up a schedule filled with classrooms or labs. The majority of the class is taught on W&M’s ropes course, which is an outdoor obstacle course with various activities and elements. My professor was upbeat and hilarious, and each class felt like a day at a playground for college students. Some days the class played games of Cyclops-tag, rappelled down the campus police station, or traversed the zip-line across Lake Matoaka. My time as both a student and later as an employee on the ropes course prompted me to work at the climbing gym in my hometown.

As a climbing instructor I encounter climbers of all levels, and the experience that I’ve gained in working an unconventional job has prepared me for my work in graduate school. In my classes I teach students the fundamentals of rock climbing, such as: how to use equipment and gear, knot tying and belaying. It’s been incredible taking a hobby that began in a random class at W&M into a fun job. However, the most rewarding part of my time at the gym has been my encounters with W&M alumni who are also fellow climbers. The joy of meeting someone who is also a member of the Tribe is like meeting a new member of your family. My W&M community has continued to grow even though I have left the campus behind.

A summer of rediscovering familiar routes and reaching new heights has bridged my transition between Williamsburg and Manhattan. I leave for NYC in just a week, and I’m excited to start grad school. Likewise, I’m really excited to see if they have a climbing gym on campus!

Finding Your Light

July 9, 2013 by

Belonging. It’s the thing that defines us, controls us, consumes us and encourages us. It’s the reason that we push ourselves to be something that we are not, the reason that we work hours on end to come up with the image that we hope to project to people and the reason that we are motivated to do what we do. There is no better feeling than the belonging that comes when you have successfully attained a goal or proven yourself. There is also no better feeling than belonging simply for who you are.

Whether or not you chose to admit it, everyone has a brand that they subscribe to; everyone has a lens through which they define themselves. You might be the book nerd, the architect, the politician, the dreamer, the enthusiast, the comedian, or any combination, but how you define yourself is important to the success you will achieve and the person that you will become. The first step to belonging is believing that you are capable. Confidence is crucial in belonging, because the more you believe that you can, the more likely that you are to become. A brand might be the office you work in; your company culture, identity and environment might define the person that you are and hope to become. Your brand might align with your morals and values and present itself through the activities you chose to pursue in your free time. You might be the activist or advocate who stays up long hours to write on behalf of their cause. You might be the religious individual who bases their actions and choices on a scripture or text.

Some brands are built around something that we hope to become. We strive to follow the model or brand of someone who has gone before us. Whether it is someone in your field of interest, an inspirational figure, a fictional character or role model, we try to emulate the actions of those who have already experienced the situations that we are encountering.

Just because you have a brand, or an identity doesn’t mean that it isn’t changing. The way that you present yourself develops and changes as you grow and discover more about yourself. As you become enlightened or captivated by a topic or interest, your brand might shift to make that interest a larger part of your identity. As your preferences shift, and your priorities change your brand molds to fit the person you have become. This process might be slow and developmental, or it may change rapidly with a single incident. In the moment you might not recognize the shift, but inevitably you will look back on the person that you once were and realize that the person you have become is different. In this process, it is important to remember that you are your own harshest critic. There is no right, wrong or better brand. Your brand is the best label that will ever be.

The way that we find our light and inspiration is in our search for purpose and belonging. Every struggle and uncertainty shapes your brand and further defines the places where you belong.

As of this May, I am a twenty-two year old William & Mary graduate. I am searching for my purpose and belonging while I reflect on what I value and find important. I have big hopes and even bigger dreams, and I am eager to embark on the rest of this journey called life. I have surrounded myself with people who I admire with hopes that I will make a life similar to what they have created. I am driven by a deep desire to create change and make the world a better place. It sounds simple, but my drive to do good is the reason I wake up each morning and do what I do. My journey so far has taught me that finding your light is the greatest gift you can give to the world. For it is through this belonging and with this light that you discover your place of greatest impact.