I cannot believe my time in Chicago has come to an end! It has been the most unforgettable experience and one that has undoubtedly been foundational for the course of the rest of my life. As far as my vocation goes, I’ve gained invaluable knowledge about life as a professional and more clarity on what kind of editing I’d like to do after graduation. Through my internship at Open Books, I had the chance to develop my skills in content and copy editing. I learned how important it is for me to work for an organization whose mission I can believe in and be passionate about. I feel much more at ease about my vocational future, as I now have professional experience under my belt and more of an idea of what type of job I want to pursue after graduation.
I’m also thankful that I’ve learned that I don’t have to have it all figured out—I still have three semesters left at Ouachita, and I know that as I continue to network, seek out opportunities to put myself out there, and gain more experience, I will end up where I’m supposed to be after graduation. I’ve learned that vocation looks different at every part of your life, so it’s not like my first job out of college has to be the exact “right” choice, or the one thing I’m going to continue doing for the rest of my life.
Looking at more of the specifics from my last month in Chicago, I’m overwhelmed. Before Thanksgiving, I was able to go to the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, which was so cool, and I got to hang out with one of my best friends from Ouachita and her family while they were in Chicago for a few days. For Thanksgiving, I wasn’t able to go home, but I got to leave the city for the first time since August as I took a train down to Festus, Missouri, to spend time with some extended family members. I was only away for a few days, but upon coming back to the city, it surprised me that I wasn’t looking forward to my last three weeks. Having gotten to be more in my comfort zone for a couple of days with family made me ready to be back home already. But I knew I had to stay living in the moment during my last few weeks in Chicago because I’d regret it if I spent them wishing to be home instead.
Luckily, that ended up not being too hard to do. I got to spend time with my sweet Chicago friends trying out a couple more pizza places (Pequod’s and Pizzano’s), attending our last couple of Arts and the City art events of the semester, and looking at all the elaborate Christmas lights at Zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo. Walking around the zoo with my friends felt like a full-circle moment—I was in the same place with the same people as I’d been with at the very beginning of the semester. As we all admired the lights, I stopped and thought about how much we’d all grown together and individually. It was very nostalgic and filled my heart with joy.
At the very beginning of this semester, a friend who had participated in the Chicago Semester summer program this past summer told me that I was about to have the time of my life and that she couldn’t express that enough. Honestly, it wasn’t until my last week here that I believed the truth in what she said. Sure, I had fun exploring the city, learning a lot, and getting closer with my new friends, but the majority of my time here I was confronted with harsh realities about the world and tough convictions about the parts of myself that needed growth. But as I sit here at the end of my journey, reflecting on everything I’ve seen, done, and learned this semester and the person it’s led me to become, I wholeheartedly agree with her. Though I’ve seen this semester as a challenging and uncomfortable season of life, it’s been filled with such light and joy.
Taking the leap of faith I did to come to Chicago has opened my eyes to see that the best parts of life lie on the other side of your comfort zone. I absolutely feel like a completely different person than the girl who arrived in Chicago on August 26, and I can’t wait to see how this new and improved Daryn faces the joys, adventures, and challenges of the rest of her life. Chicago will forever have a huge piece of my heart, and I cannot express enough how deeply I will always cherish the time I spent here.