John Dipaola, 2009, Watertown, CT
What are you up to? Surprisingly, not that much at all. I'm currently waiting to hear back from The University of Bridgeport for (hopefully acceptance) into to their Secondary Education Graduate Program. Until then, I am trying to keep myself active and occupied with some part-time work here and there, along with starting my own sports blog (will most likely blow up Facebook when I get a few articles written) and being an avid meathead / exercise enthusiast at the Greater Waterbury YMCA.
How'd you get here? Before even graduating from WHS I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to end up in life. At the time, I was a pretty OK swimmer, so I looked into schools with Division II and III swim programs. I think that was the first mistake I made because instead of focusing on a university with good academics, I wanted to be an athlete first.
That didn't go as planned because I stopped swimming my very first semester at Southern Connecticut State University. I ended up disliking that university for all the wrong reasons. I transferred to The University of Connecticut (Storrs campus) for two years, before the weight of constant partying, lack of studying and low class attendance, and a miserable relationship took its toll on me (mentally and emotionally). I then transferred campuses to the Waterbury branch while changing my major (when I should have been a senior). After another year and a half and commuting between the Waterbury and Storrs campuses for classes, I finally earned my Undergraduate Degree in English and started my first "big boy" job as a Visual manager of an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Milford (please keep the disrespectful comments to a minimum).
Even though the schedule and hours of retail are completely insane (especially during the holidays) I did make some good professional connections and made a lot of close friends, many of whom I still stay in close contact with today. After a little more than a year of working with the company, I decided to part ways and return to school so that I could fulfill some missing pre-requisites for grad school programs I had been looking at. After a mostly successful spring semester, I mailed my applications and I am now sitting at my computer typing this article.
What are your goals? I can safely say I have no clue where or what I will end up doing in the future. While my current plans are aiming me in the direction of graduate school, I have had so much anxiety over the "what if" scenarios of whether or not I'll get into this program that I've actually begun taking prescription medicine to counteract this. Even though my biggest fear is trying my best to achieve a specific goal (in this case being admitted to the intended grad program) a part of me doesn't fear the unexpected, but instead embraces the possibility of "what if". Even if I end up not getting accepted into the U.B. program, I'd like to further my sports blog development and maybe even end up pursuing a career in sports media. If that doesn't go as planned I still feel very confident in my writing abilities and could pursue careers elsewhere in the field of writing or editing. Even if THAT fails then I could always return to my previous management position, which I thankfully parted with on good terms. I've most definitely got enough back-up plans to keep myself occupied with for a while.
Advice for WHS Students? I mean I could ramble on for hours with this part but I'll give my best few pieces of advice:
1. Take care of yourself mentally physically, and emotionally. The triangle of mental, physical, and emotional health is absolutely true. Try to challenge yourself with something new each day, whether it's trying new brain game puzzles, or keeping up with a personal interest blog, or even just pushing yourself with strenuous physical activity; these three cornerstones can definitely keep your mind and body in harmony, keeping you refreshed and ready for any challenges life throws at you. Plus it never hurts to look and feel good about yourself, especially when others around you complain about their own lives.
2. It's the quality, not the quantity of your friendships. When I was a freshman in high school I was not social at all and extremely introverted. As time passed I did begin to open up and make more new friends, but the one constant I noticed was that the few good friends I had when I began were always by my side. After graduating, I still kept the closest contact with these few friends, while my relationship with many others seemed to fade away at times. Even to this very day many years later, I'm still the best of friends with the same six people I was friends with the first day of freshman year. Even though I keep an open mind when it comes to meeting new people, I know that I'll have these guys on my side until the day I die (or they die, whichever comes first).
3. DO NOT DWELL ON THE PAST. Seriously, this part bugs me the most because even I still do it. Even if you have the time of your life in high school or college, these times will pass. Instead of choosing to waste time dwelling on these moments and complaining about "how you wish you could recreate them" spend time actively trying to push your life in the direction of creating a scenario even better than the ones you previously lived out.
"To put it in comparison with professional sports, imagine if Tom Brady woke up everyday and said "Damn I really wish I beat the Giants in the 2007 Super Bowl, that perfect season sure would have been great!" Instead of trying to lead his team to another Super Bowl Championship, his dwelling on the past would only incite more mental errors and probably end his career on a sour note. So with that in mind, don't try and recreate the past from memory, just do your best each day and work for an even brighter future."
I guess a fourth piece of advice I'm still coming to realize now, is that you shouldn't feel pressured to live your life at a certain pace. Too many people are feeling pressured to grow up quickly and find a textbook definition of "success". Nothing happens overnight and even though waiting for what you want sucks, it's pretty much inevitable. Try not to rush into anything (unless you've done your research on it) because change in your life can be very drastic. Just because all your friends are moving out of state for school or work, or getting married at a young age, doesn't mean you should hurry up and do the same thing. I mean if all these people jumped off a bridge and broke their legs, would you want to break your leg too, just because everyone you know has?
What are the ingredients for a perfect day? Waking up early, eating three square healthy meals (with some snacks in between), checking the news for anything new and exciting, getting in some good exercise (whether it's lifting weights, swimming, biking, or even playing organized sports) and then winding down at night with a movie, or some reading.