As we head into a new school year full of change, uncertainty and new opportunity, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on a summer full of personal and professional development. A summer that has taught me to embrace all of what life has to offer: Unpredictability and Unknowns.
This past May, I worked alongside a group of extremely ambitious Financial Planning Club at Illinois students on an intensive case challenge. Initially full of hesitation and doubts on how to approach the case, I took the opportunity to put my years of profound education to the ultimate test. For hours upon hours, I collaborated with Maureen McCullough and Ethan Krumwiede on our Personal Financial Plan as a part of the FPA 2020 Financial Planning Challenge. We gained a tremendous amount of understanding for what our future profession entails and have grown more accustomed to the nuances that comprise the practice of Financial Planning. Although at times demoralizing due to the constant roadblocks, the sheer process of creating our plan resulted in something I had never before discovered - the tenacity within myself to find the best solutions for any challenges thrown my way. I'm awfully proud that all the hard work has paid off and to have advanced into the competition’s final rounds!
At the start of June, I began my internship with The Tranel Financial Group. I was very excited to have the opportunity of working inside an office, where for the first time I was able to experience a professional culture and deep-rooted company values. However, while the pandemic continued to unfold and while I lived with a severely immunocompromised person, I had a dilemma of whether I should even continue or not. I took a rather risky gamble, deciding that I'd continue the internship and simply take as many necessary precautions to keep my family COVID-free. Fortunately, during the two-month span of working at Tranel, there was not a single issue with the virus, as the office went through great lengths to keep everyone/everything clean and safe. And even in the midst of COVID-19’s disruptions, The Tranel Financial Group went above and beyond in fostering us interns with a fully engaging environment. I was surrounded by amazing coworkers and learned some invaluable lessons. One of them that I simply cannot unlearn: "Don't let the world happen to you, happen to the world." After years of struggling to understand what I can do to make an impact, these values inspired me to happen to the world - whether it be to myself or my community. In the face of not knowing if this internship would benefit me or threaten my family’s health, I followed my gut in hopes for the best – and the best is what I got.
July brought with it a great deal of personal challenges that resulted in my immense growth. For the past two years, my father has been battling a very deadly form of brain cancer called Glioblastoma. As it typically goes with these situations, we observed this illness unfold, unable to do anything but surround him with love and comfort. I always had a small sense of hope that he may actually survive this disease, but also a perpetual sense of fear that his death was approaching. The fear of what life would be like once he was gone always stood at the forefront of my mind. After enduring this long battle against cancer, my father passed away last month – in the greatest of circumstances, I must say. After being able to reflect on the amazing life he lived and wonderful attributes he had, I felt as if a switch had magically flipped in my brain. I realized that all I can do now is exhibit those same attributes in my own self. Despite the difficult journey my family and I experienced, I managed to gain something I would have never expected to during such tough times: an appreciation for the differences we all share as individuals, the value in discovering our individual passions, and the paradoxical fondness for expecting the unexpected.
Living in such unprecedented times, it’s easy to become filled with fear and anxiety for what’s to come. Here are a few things I began doing that have helped me overcome such fears. First, it’s extremely important to regularly reflect on your ever-changing strengths, weaknesses, and personal aspirations in order to develop attainable goals – whether short-term or long-term. Not only do you gain a sense of direction within your own life, but you have something to look forward to, something to strive for. Second, it’s incredibly helpful to immerse yourself in a variety of perspectives (try to keep it positive/insightful). I recently began indulging in a wide range of media, which resulted in a greater drive to actively think about the world (sometimes even write about it), thus making me feel more productive and accomplished. Although there are many things one can do to drown out anxieties, these habits have accustomed me to happily accept unexpected realities. Eventually, you will realize that everything within this world had been discovered in a realm of uncertainty – and that you TOO can create something extraordinary from the fate life throws at you.