Anything can happen if you just only try hard

Published 10:05 am Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Like every other kid I dreamed big dreams. I wanted to be a dolphin trainer when I was 8. I wanted to work for Peter Jennings at the age of 12. And when I was 19 I wanted to intern at the United Nations. But I’ve always considered myself a realistic person, and so never did I actually think those dreams could come true.

Fast forward with me to the present, or at least to Friday, June 12, 2009. At approximately nine minutes past noon, I found myself walking into the chambers of the United Nations Security Council. I was not on a public tour. In fact, several U.N. security guards questioned my presence. Luckily an ID badge hanging from my neck told them off. I didn’t really believe it either — I was supposedly an adviser for the United States delegation.

It has taken me some time to truly believe, but, yes, one of my dreams has come true. The term adviser may be stretching my position a little, but I am an intern — a press and public diplomacy intern to be exact. On Friday I was fortunate enough to watch on as the United Nations Security Council placed sanctions on the ever-rambunctious North Korea. Pretending to be a vital member of the U.S. Mission’s press team, I tried not to garner too much attention. As my supervisor put it, I had quite the backstage pass.

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When I applied for an internship with the U.S. Mission, I assumed that my résumé would quickly find its way to the nearest trash receptacle. So after receiving an internship offer, I quickly presumed a small miracle had occurred. Unlike most of my fellow interns, I don’t go to Harvard or Princeton. And I’m not exactly best buddies with anyone at the State Department. So I started asking myself, “Why me?” How did I get so lucky? I’ve finally realized that the better question to ask myself is, “Why not?”

A few weeks ago I attended a performance of the new musical, Mary Poppins. In it Mary sings a new song titled, “Anything Can Happen.” And from this song I think we all have a lot to learn. Some people may tell you to reach for the stars, but Mary Poppins isn’t satisfied with the stars. For Mary, only the heavens will do. She explains herself by singing, “If you reach for the stars, all you get are the stars. But if you reach for the heavens, then you get the stars thrown in.”

By applying with the U.S. Mission, I didn’t settle for the stars, and without realizing it, I had reached for the heavens.

No matter where you are on life’s journey, always remember to reach past the stars. Because life is flexible. You don’t have to follow the established career path. In fact, there’s no such thing as a career path. Only the path you choose.

At the U.S. Mission, I’ve met some amazing people. But they aren’t amazing because they followed society’s footsteps — they followed their hearts. Here are just a few examples:

I met an Air Force pilot turned Security Council lawyer, an elementary teacher turned public diplomacy specialist, and a law-school student turned executive assistant to the U.S. ambassador. They’ll all tell you anything can happen.

But before I leave you singing supercalifragilisticexpialidocious off into the sunset, I would like to offer up a warning of sorts. The chance to do anything comes with a price — it is not free by any means.

Take a baby bird for example. When it comes of age, a baby bird is given the chance to fly. And if it fights hard enough, that tiny little baby bird can fly off toward the heavens. But with every positive there is a negative. That same baby bird, in all its glory, has become a reject. For you see, that baby bird’s mother has changed her tune; she’s moved on, times have changed — that baby bird, while it can fly, has lost its home.

Like the fledgling, leaving home gives you the chance to fly. But at the same time, fledglings can never fly back. I’ve discovered, like many other graduates, that once I left home, home was never quite the same, nor will it ever be. You see my dream, though very much achievable, has come with a cost.

But that doesn’t mean you or I shouldn’t fly. In fact, looking more closely at the baby bird metaphor, you’ll see mama bird pushing baby bird out of the nest. For mama bird knows, like Mary Poppins, that if given the chance, anything can happen. So don’t ever give up an opportunity to reach for the heavens. And don’t ever give up a chance to fly, because anything, and I mean anything, can happen if you let it.

Abraham Swee attends Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he is double majoring in broadcast news and musical theater.