I am where I’ve been going

It’s a difficult thing to realize at the time, but that’s probably a good thing. If we realized it, leaving home for college would sound far more intimidating. It’s not easy and it’s certainly not short. In fact, it begins to feel so normal that it takes more than a few moments to get our bearings when it ends.

And it ended for me last week — the dream state that engulfs early adulthood in a haze of aspirations and plans always set in the future but seemingly never in reality. The constant motion — striving toward colleges, then internships, summer jobs and long-term internships — that takes place mostly in rapid eye movements of hope, it stopped. My eyes were open, I was awake, and I was employed.

I haven’t just landed at The Roanoke Times — I started here as an intern in September — but I’ve been offered my position full-time, so the anxious engines that took me to Virginia Tech, New York and Missouri can rest.

It’s hard to miss the prolonged routes the people of my generation are taking to our first destinations. It took me six months from graduation. Some are going to grad school. Others are working in some less-than-permanent situation, as I was before. And for those of us who were lucky enough to have the support to keep jumping at opportunities, appealing landing places are starting to appear.

For more than four years, we live in a state of limbo between school and temporary jobs and our parents’ homes. And we talk nebulously about “jobs.” Throughout college, the economic situation made our prospects seem more like a mathematical game of survival — a poker tournament of sorts — than a mission to establish the lives we want for ourselves. But then you get there, without counting the miles or seeing the signs or even realizing where “there” is.

It’s not the end — stability doesn’t require you to stop — but it is a checkpoint. A few weeks before I graduated high school, I quit my job at Dunkin’ Donuts. Long before that, I had decided I wanted to write, to work in journalism. It didn’t feel like work.

So when I left that after-school job, which paid for the car I still drive, it was my intention that I would never “work” again. Four years later, that has been the constant goal and the time has paid off. This is where I get to achieve my most basic dream — make a living in journalism — and take a moment to have some new ones.