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Graduating from my “senior year of life”

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07/19/2013

Graduating from my “senior year of life” photo

Lia at her Northwestern University graduation in 2009 

A little more than four years ago — on June 20, 2009 — I wore a purple cap and gown, walked across the stage, and received my diploma from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

I have officially been out of college longer than I was in it. As I began thinking about this fact a few weeks ago, I came across my senior column that I wrote for the Daily Northwestern, published June 15, 2009. Here’s what I wrote:

Workaholics Anonymous

In a college quarter with no classes, I seemed to do a lot of learning. Thanks to a few AP credits, I was able to complete school at the end of Winter Quarter.

Students always joke about what college would be like without professors and midterms, and I got to live it firsthand. I spent 12 weeks doing interesting things I wish I hadn’t waited until senior year to do.

Throughout college, I’ve taken some great courses. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in the lectures and the grades that we forget about the other learning opportunities that this school and this city have to offer.

It took me four years to discover how nice it is to read a book at Norbucks [the Starbucks at our student center] — for fun. It took me four years to convince myself that you can exercise more effectively at Blomquist [one of the NU gyms] if you’re listening to music — not highlighting in a course pack. After four years, I learned the benefits of walking along the Lakefill, getting paid for participating in Kellogg [School of Management] studies and going to Cubs games with my brother.

I started going on “adventures” into Chicago, searching the web of vibrant neighborhoods for the best brunch restaurants, ice cream stores and cheap shopping areas.

At Northwestern, I majored in journalism and minored in Hebrew Studies. I’ve studied economics, cosmology, marketing, drawing, statistics and comparative politics. Over the past four years, though, I’ve also been lucky to be able to study late-night milkshakes at Kafein [coffee shop in Evanston], Century 12 Evanston Theatre, volunteer trips, the Purple Line, the third floor of Norris [student center] and 30-hour dance parties [NU’s Dance Marathon].

Now, we graduate college, but did we do enough? Did we meet enough people? Did we spend enough time exploring the exciting, new and different places surrounding us?

It may have taken me four years in college to learn the importance of those things; but it won’t take me four years to figure it out in the “real world.”

Whether we’re going to an international grad school or taking a job here in Chicago, it might be good to occasionally try to act like we’re taking a quarter off.

We should study hard for the LSAT, but stay on the beach for an extra hour before we do. We should prepare presentations for our clients, but then invite our freshman-year roommates for coffee. We should be excited about our first paychecks, but we should not be afraid to spend part of them on something we’ve never done before.

I hope to live my life like Spring Quarter 2009, staying on my toes and supplementing work with culture and excitement.

So next year, seniors, any time we have a free Sunday — even if the weather disagrees — let’s go on an adventure, exploring something new.

-Lia Lehrer, Medill senior

Graduating from my “senior year of life” photo 2

Page of the Daily Northwestern from June 15, 2009 where Lia’s article appeared 

Until I found this article in my parents’ basement a few weeks ago, I had completely forgotten that I wrote it. But somehow, I think I had it in the back of my mind this whole time. Somewhere, a little mini 2009 Lia has been whispering to me: Go. Do. Explore.

In the past four years, I’ve had two great jobs (at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El and now at Temple Jeremiah), finished my first year of grad school (at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership), lived in an amazing neighborhood, made a lot of new friends, and have been to a dozens of summer street festivals. I’ve seen Broadway plays and improv shows, tried new restaurants and discovered my favorite local coffee shops. I’ve traveled to new places around the country and around the world. So far, it’s been a blast — and there are so many more places to explore, people to meet, and things I want to do.

So, Lia of the past: As I graduate from my “senior year of life,” thank you for reminding me to keep going out there, visiting new places, and exploring the unknown. Here’s hoping that all of you, dear friends, will join me on these adventures for many years to come.

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