“Look behind you,” said Mike, a new friend I’d made only a month prior.
I wrapped my arms more tightly around his waist, afraid I’d fall off his mint-green Vespa, get run over and become a messy splat on the Brooklyn Bridge. But I trusted Mike, so I twisted around to look behind me.
The sky was violescent hues with splashes of orange and vermillion. Clouds like torn-apart pieces of cotton spread unevenly across the fiery backdrop. To my right stretched the vastness of the East River. A barge was meandering along, leaving behind rigid textures in the calm water. Tall buildings twinkled playfully, as though flirting with the sun.
“New York is so beautiful right now,” I said stupidly.
And before I knew it, a single fast tear ran down my cheek, drying quickly thanks to the aggressive wind. I was glad Mike couldn’t see.
How did I get here? I asked myself. Sunsets have a way of bringing out my introspective side. How did my 21 years of life lead up to this exact moment?
I entered Baylor as a business major because my freshman self had no clue what she wanted to do. After taking one writing course, I changed my major to professional writing. To most people, I went from a practical degree to a whimsical one.
“What do you plan to do with that?” was the question everyone kept asking.
At dinner parties, I spent most of my time defending my love of the humanities to my parents’ friends, acting confident in my decision to switch majors. I think I even inspired myself a few times. But truthfully, I was unsure and terrified.
During my summer internship at Sterling Publishing, a small but well-established publishing house in Manhattan, I suddenly remembered, with clarity and certainty, why I’d switched majors in the first place: I’m deeply in love with words and the stories they tell. Words appear simple and harmless, but they have such enduring power. Words have made me laugh, and words have made me cry. Words can inspire; words can destroy.
I worked with words every day at Sterling. It was fulfilling work that felt good and natural to me. And when I wasn’t working, I was enjoying the city. I tried exotic foods, swing danced at a jazz festival, attended rooftop parties, walked in creepy alleys where I thought for sure someone was going to cut off my limbs, and even shook Josh Lucas’ hand. Working or not working, I was living.
I’m proud of my confused freshman self for being whimsical, for daring to dream at an age where dreaming is no longer cool. One big life decision, more than a dozen rejections and 30 humiliating dinner parties later, that girl found herself in New York City, doing exactly what she wanted to be doing.
“I’m going to turn around and cross the bridge again,” Mike said, “so we can go toward the sunset.”
Sometimes you want to do what you’re passionate about, and everyone seems against it. You’re making a horrible mistake, they tell you, one that won’t get you far in the “real world.” But when you ignore those people, you just might find yourself flying across the Brooklyn Bridge, wind in your face, as the world — more real than ever before — sparkles around you.
Ada Zhang is a senior professional writing major from Austin. She also writes for the Lariat blog “Food & Feminism” on baylorlariat.com.