I am graduating from UCLA more confused than when I came in.
College was supposed to teach me the theories of economics, prepare me for a career in money-making and transform me into a mature, well-functioning adult.
I am getting a degree in economics, so I can explain with graphs why I’ll be unemployed this summer. And my bank statement will tell you that I eat out or order more than my mom would be happy with. I’m partly responsible for Postmates’ growing revenue.
Despite the existential crisis I am facing, I want to thank UCLA and the Daily Bruin. The Bruin played an important role in shaping my experience here at UCLA, and this only became apparent to me as I sat down to write this column.
I came into UCLA with the aspiration of going to law school. I was your typical Hermione Granger. As the conventional rule-follower, I joined the Daily Bruin as a Copy intern. Associated Press style was sacred. I checked facts not understanding their significance. I wanted to impress my professors and editors, and I was impressive.
By second year, I got promoted to slot editor, so I figured I must be doing something right. Grades were accomplishments and my ambitiousness was striking. But that was a stylistic choice, and I couldn’t care less about building my intellectual substance.
In other words, I had a stick up my ass.
I was unknowingly following the expectations my family and friends had for me. There was pressure, but I treaded down that path confidently. In hindsight, I was directionless.
Essentially, it all looked good on paper, but I clearly had nary an idea what I really wanted out of life.
By the time I became a third-year, I started to loosen up more. I started reporting for Arts and Entertainment. Despite claiming in my interview with the Copy chief two years ago that I could never edit A&E for the lack of interest and knowledge, the arts became entertainment for me. I was writing about pop culture and (mis)using industry jargon.
I interviewed artists from all over UCLA, internalized their struggles, rejoiced in their successes and learned how to put on a puppy face to chase down uncooperative sources.
But with all the loosening up I did, my GPA naturally loosened up, too. And it has remained loose ever since.
But I did not care. I was taking film classes, reading industry analysis and doing what six-year-old me loved – watching movies. I was happy and I was learning.
As I entered my fourth year, I took on alumni relations for the Daily Bruin and came across several roadblocks – bureaucratic and personal. I talked to alumni and tried to build a network. But all in all, I delivered a solidly mediocre performance. Just meh. I was the Bing of search engines.
I do not have any sage advice to offer. I do not have a well-practiced, novel anecdote that shows how courage transformed me for the better.
But you are not supposed to be transformed by graduation day. I am still making mistakes – some I fix and the others I hope no one notices.
Working at the Daily Bruin has given me the courage to say: Whoops, I failed. It fixed my impression of myself, and for that, I’m thankful.
But the Daily Bruin has also taught me not to feel fragile in the face of uncertainty.
If I take enough risks and experiment, I’ll get around the roadblocks in life. And hopefully I’ll have a career by the time I am 30. I’ll figure it out. Perhaps I want to work in the finance division of a media or entertainment company. But I’m smart enough to not put on blinders this time around.
My life will be different from what 18-year-old me had planned. But as an enlightened friend pointed out, I did not pay thousands of dollars to this university to be the same person as first-year me. She’s right.
I am more confused than I was four years ago. But, at least, I am less worried.
Gambhir was a Copy contributor in 2014, slot editor 2014-2015, Arts and Entertainment reporter 2015-2016 and director of alumni relations 2016-2017.