Senior Goodbye: Shayla Cabalan

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I first came to UIndy in the fall of 2016, which feels like an eternity ago now. I had just spent the summer with my family in the Philippines, and while I was there, it rained, and it rained hard. It rained so hard it flooded, and when I peered outside my window, I caught glimpses of children dancing in the rain, kicking up floodwater, battling one another with twig swords. The floodwaters rose. Under a stormy gray sky, the children played on. 

I have always been afraid of becoming an adult, of sitting behind a cubicle all my life, the dimensions of my creativity bound by a little box. I grew up in an immigrant family who had to work twice as hard to earn their place here in America. Some of my earliest memories were of my father slumped over his tiny workstation, the light from his computer illuminating taut, focused features. Too busy for bedtime stories. This is what adulthood meant to me.

When I came to UIndy, there was all this talk of growing up: You’re an adult now. You’re away from home for the first time. You’re going to figure out what you want to do with your life, on and on and on. But the only thing I really knew about myself was that I was a storyteller. That was the one constant I had going for me. Other than that, my bridge from angsty high school teen to functioning college adult was rickety. Uncertain, I decided to major in English. At the very last second, right before classes began my freshman year, I decided to major in communication as well.

Here’s a fun fact: when I started college in 2016, I had no idea who or what I wanted to be when I came out the other end. Now that it’s 2020, I can confidently say that I still don’t know what I want. And it’s the best feeling in the world. Over the course of my last four years at UIndy, I have given speeches to national audiences. I wrote a novel. I broadcasted my voice on two FM radio stations. I’ve written more articles for The Reflector than I know how to count. And the whole while, I was terrified down to my very core. I never ate before a speech tournament out of nerves. I always breathe deeply for at least a minute before I do a newscast. I’m always worried I’ll screw up an interview. I’m always scared of what comes next. And that’s the point. 

The biggest lesson I’ve learned here at UIndy is that adulthood is not laptop screens, hunched shoulders and cubicles. In fact, it’s more like dancing in the rain in the middle of a flood. It’s heading into a stormy situation uncertain of who or what you’ll be by the end of it. Fear is something we learn when we’re very young. And it stays with us until we’re very old. Fear is the mark of an adult. Facing it is the mark of adulthood.

I will miss UIndy. You spend four years somewhere, you’re bound to have rituals, you’re bound to have memories. I made friends here. I worked here. I fell in love here. But it’s time for that next step, and I’m fully ready for that adventure, despite being afraid of it. To all of the people who have helped me over the past four years, to all the friends I’ve made and even some of the enemies, thank you. 

If you need me, I’ll be stepping into the rain.

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