Happiness is Attainable
This week we're excited to welcome back another Marist SGA alumna, Shalyn Baum! Throughout her career as a Red Fox, Shalyn exhibited a clear devotion to the campus community as the Vice President of Academic Affairs and a leader within the St. Jude Fundraising Committee. This week, she shares her insights on transitioning from the campus world to the "real" world, and maintaining a healthy balance in activities in projects to foster a balanced work/social life that really makes its mark.
One thing I can say about my college experience- I lived it to the fullest. As soon as I got to Marist, I was a joiner, signing up for every club at the activity fair and making plans for club meetings or going out with friends every night of the week. Coming from an eccentric performing arts high school with 100 people per grade, I was overjoyed to be on a normal college campus, with sporting events to go to and hundreds of clubs to join. Though I realized quickly I couldn’t be an active member of Campus Ministry, Booster Club, Theatre Club, Student Government, and Fashion Inc., due to not having Hermione’s Time Turner, I still was excited to figure out where I would find my niche.
Student Government quickly became a home for me during that first year at Marist. I was a member of the Student Academic Council, representing the School of Communication and the Arts, as I was a fashion merchandising major. Through that experience, I got to go to school meetings with all members of the faculty, and report back to the council about curricular changes, events, and general improvements to the school. As the transition period of clubs arrived, I was given the opportunity to become the SGA Vice President of Academic Affairs, running the council that I had sat on that made me fall in love with both SGA and Marist College.
That position was one that I held until graduation. I got to be a member of four SGA administrations, and I really was able to make change on campus. I also met my best friends in the process, who are still like my family to this day. There were set backs of course, mainly running for SGA Vice President with my best friend, Alex, as my running mate and losing, but everything happens for a reason and it allowed me to learn from it and do even more within my role. I was able to vote on a new core curriculum that impacted all future students, act as the student voice during the college’s institutional self-study, plan three faculty luncheons, host two student academic quiz bowls, and form meaningful relationships with members of the faculty and administration that helped morph my character to this day.
Another thing that Student Government gave me was my lifelong love for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. My freshmen year RA, April, encouraged me to join the Up ‘Til Dawn Committee, and that moment changed my life forever. Being a part of the committee made me realize my love for the hospital and the kids of St. Jude. I vowed to always help as much as I could so that the hospital can keep its mission of being completely free for their patients, so that no child dies in the dawn of life.
Senior Year, I was able to co-chair the St. Jude Up ‘Til Dawn Committee, and my co-chair, Nicolette, and I were the first to host an all-night event raising over $30,000 for the kids of St. Jude. We set the precedent for what is now an annual event at Marist, and it was just the best feeling in the world. I also had the opportunity to visit the hospital in Memphis, Tennessee twice before I graduated for the Collegiate Leadership Seminar, and seeing firsthand how our time and effort affected those kids made it even more special to me. Just like they say, there is no place like St. Jude.
Most people get so sad about graduation and leaving their friends, campus, and college life behind, but I was so ready for the real world once that time came. That’s not because I didn’t love college- I loved Marist more than anything. I just made the most of my time there and reached the point where I learned everything I could learn, met everyone I could meet, tried every club, event, and organization I could try, and was ready to move on to the next chapter.
College prepares you for the real world in so many ways. You learn how to manage your time, you start to become independent, and you gather the tools that you’ll need once you start your first job. In other ways, it is such a brutal wake up call. It’s called the real world because it becomes “real” so incredibly fast. Time management no longer means figuring out how long you can nap for between your 8am and 11am classes, it’s how to accomplish all of your tasks at work and still have energy for your life outside of the office. Independence goes from being able to stay up as late as you want and eat whatever you want to figuring out how you’re going to find an apartment and pay your rent. All of those courses, definitions, theories, and equations go out the window as you embark on day one of your new job and realize that this is your life now. There are no grades, guidance counselors, or “how to” guides on how to do it right. It is all up to you.
The biggest shock for me once I graduated was realizing the amount of time that I had when I was not working. At Marist, I was so involved that I would be on campus from 8am-9pm, hanging in the Student Government office in between classes or working in the library or fashion lab on homework, projects, or whichever event I was planning at the time. Weekends too were jam packed with hanging out with my roommates, boyfriends, and maintaining my active social life, which has always been just as important as work to me.
When you get into the real world, you generally work some variation of 9-6. Once you get off, you have hours to yourself of freedom each night. No homework. No rules. Each night is an empty page. Weekends too are completely free, unless you have an non-traditional job. That totally freaked me out. Most people that I know love their free time. There is nothing that they love more than coming home from work, watching TV, and going to bed. I am not most people, and if you’re reading this, neither are you.
My immediate thought once I graduated and tried to fall into the real world routine was- what now? Where do I go from here? How do I go from planning faculty luncheons, writing essays on John Keats, and going to the same bars every weekend to having no set plans and a completely unwritten book? How do I create my new routine? What does it consist of? Who is in it? What does it look like?
I dived right into figuring that out. It was just like the beginning of freshmen year again, overwhelmed by how many cool things I could do with my time. Two weeks after I graduated, I messaged the St. Jude New York Office to see if there was a committee I could join. I joined two book clubs, a Harry Potter club, the gym, and made a list of all the restaurants and places that I wanted to go to in the city. I made plans with old friends from my past that also had moved to New York, and had bonding time with my new roommates that were all together in our five-bedroom Craigslist apartment.
Some things that you try will stick, and others will fall to the sidelines. That’s normal! You can’t do everything. You can’t hang out with everyone. As much as I try to excel at everything and have the most balanced and full life, it’s important to realize that it isn’t always going to be perfect. As the Gilmore Girls Revival taught us- even Rory Gilmore isn't perfect. You can have your dream Journalism career, amazing family and friends (Hello- Lorelai, Paris, AND Lane), and supportive hometown, and still be making mistakes, dealing with failure and rejection, and dating the wrong guy- who happens to be your ex boyfriend who is engaged to a French Girl named Odette. Perfection may not be attainable, but happiness is. Just as they say, it’s about the journey and not the destination.
The real world is about thinking long and hard about how you want to spend your time, who you want to spend it with, and figuring out what makes you happy. The road to happiness in adulthood comes from choosing to do just that. It’s about the empowerment of saying "no" to things that you don't want to do. It's doing something for yourself and not social media. It's doing something that makes you scared every day- be it speaking up in a meeting or trying a new work out class. It’s about realizing that some relationships, romantic or otherwise, are not meant to outlive college. It’s about forming your own path and own life.
There will be days when it’s raining and you miss the train and you just wish you could go back to bed. There will be days when you’re lonely and your family is far away and your best friends have all moved to different cities and you’re sitting alone on your Ikea couch unsure of your next step. There will be days when you can’t afford to go out to dinner and you wish you could go back to the days of sitting in the cafeteria without a care in the world.
There also are moments that make it all so worth it. Like I said earlier, not everything sticks, but some things last a lifetime. St. Jude is that for me. I didn’t want to stop helping just because I graduated college, I wanted to help forever. Joining the Friends of St. Jude NYC Committee has been the highlight of my life post-graduation. Working so closely with members of the St. Jude NYC office has been so inspiring, and I’ve met so many wonderful people that share the same passions as me.
I was given the position of Junior Co-chair a few months after joining, and I became the Co-chair of the committee during this past Spring. I have the honor of spending my free time to plan an annual gala, which raises over $100,000 for St. Jude. We also just had our inaugural Fall Festival event at the Standard High Line in New York, which was the most successful, beautiful day made even more real with a cancer survivor giving his story of how St. Jude changed his life and gave him the chance to grow up and become a Doctor.
It is moments like these, when you’re standing up in the front of a room, thanking your guests who spent their time and money to come together to help others, that make life worth living. Being a student leader at Marist College is what helped me get to this point. All of those experiences working with other students, faculty, administration, and staff in club meetings, planning events, and working to make the school a better place truly instilled in me a love of community, charity, and altruism. Marist fulfilled its mission statement in me to give me an “enlightened, ethical, and productive” life, and I am forever grateful.
This post has been edited for grammar. All content remains the original work of the author.