If there is one thing I know about myself, it’s that I’m an over-achieving, stress-inducing, perfectionist.
It’s rare that I come across someone with that same mentality (I don’t mean this as to toot my own horn in the least bit, since quite often my personality gets the best of me).
But halfway through the Fall semester of my sophomore year, just after declaring a major in journalism, I began attending meetings for the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) club. There I met Carl Lam, a junior triple major in audio/radio production, applied music and journalism.
Yep, that’s THREE majors – on top of writing for the school paper, being a part of multiple clubs across campus, and participating in who knows how many other activities and volunteer events. It amazed me how one person could do so much without going absolutely bonkers.
It was nothing short of impressive.
So from the first time our advisor Elmer Ploetz compared my organization and work ethic to Carl’s, I knew I had found a new inspiration to look up to.
It was really kind of mind-boggling sometimes. You’re trying to do all this and juggle school work and a social life, or what remained of a social life, and all of the other things that you had to do and sometimes it just gets to be too much. You just have to give up things. There are just things you have to prioritize. That is such a hard thing for some people to do because people don’t want to give those types of things up. But when it comes down to you versus your career and you’re staring at it right in the face, you’re going to figure out when you’re going to sacrifice something or not.”
But the countless nights Carl spent practicing, recording or typing until two or three in the morning did not come without reward. Less than one year after crossing the stage and receiving his diploma, Carl sits as a traffic anchor for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
“There obviously were days where you would just look at your list of things to do and you would ask yourself, ‘How am I going to do this?’ It just didn’t even seem like normal people could do that.”
I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard “how do you do everything you do?”
To be honest, I’m not quite sure.
I just do it.
But what I do know is that my lifestyle wouldn’t be possible without the support of my friends and more importantly, my family.
While I have been so lucky as to be blessed with an incredibly supportive family, there have certainly been times they’ve crossed their fingers and hoped I would take sometime to just slow down.
“Sometimes when they don’t want you working all week and waking up at 3:30 in the morning and then having to go to class and then going and working two to three other jobs, that’s when they don’t want you to do it [all]. They’re like, ‘You’re gonna hate yourself at the end of the week.'”
But somehow, we never do.
And as hectic as our lives can be, we want nothing more than to share it with others.
“I think everyone should find someone who is as excited as you are to do the things you do and they’re there to watch you and see you grow.”
After describing my ideal life partner, Carl made it clear how important it is to have a mentor or role model to look up to.
“You can turn to them. You can ask them questions. They give you feedback and they don’t just say ‘good job’ for the sake of saying that. They really take an investment in you and they really see the value of providing you with feedback and having you grow along with their help.”
After what seemed like the longest 20 minutes of both our lives, and as we thought about the million other things we had to do that day, Carl said something that gave me the drive I’m going to need to get through what is turning out to be one of the most difficult semesters of my college career:
How are you going to prove to someone that you’re as good as you say you are? A lot of it is just proving people wrong – which is horrible to say – but it’s also so true. Don’t ever be satisfied with what you have. I mean, there comes a point when you obviously will be satisfied with where you are, but always fight to get more and always fight to do more than people expect you to or tell you to.”
But, while you impress the people whose expectations you plow into the ground, when you live a life of jam-packed schedules and sleepless nights, you spend a good amount of time dealing with skeptics.
“They’re always gonna ask you why and then your answer is just because you like it. There’s no other way or shortcoming it. You do it because you like it and you couldn’t really imagine your life without it.”