Strictly Speaking: A Column

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Elaina Martin, Editor-in-Chief

   College applications are due right around the corner and as I’m filling everything out, I’ve had to face the fact that I really don’t know what I want to do with my life. Through high school, I’ve had classes that I like, but nothing I really want to make a career out of. For the most part, that was okay and my focus was on performing academically, not obsessing over whether I was truly in love with the subject. Suddenly, it seems like I’m down to the wire, obligated to make a choice.

   Certainly, I’m not necessarily being forced into picking a career, but it often feels that way. Colleges want to see what major I plan on entering as, and the Common Application even goes so far as to ask what career I think I’ll be in ten years from now. As if I’m supposed to know? I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to pick a career when my current job experience consists of a summer of lifeguarding at a pool and walking dogs. My brain isn’t even fully developed, yet I’m expected to know my exact career trajectory down to the major and minor before I’m even in college. It all sounds simultaneously ridiculous and imperative.

   As I’m faced with all these choices, I’m terrified I’m going to fill out the wrong box and regret it for the rest of my life. I’m loath to think that I run the risk of being forever unhappy because I made a huge learning commitment in my early twenties for something I’m not passionate about. I’m scared about potentially devoting my life to a job in order to pay the bills rather than enrich my life.

   When in doubt, I usually go to the Google search bar for help, but the internet is full of largely unhelpful advice on the subject of careers. My searches for advice on picking a major come up with answers in the form of questions: What are you passionate about? If you could have one career, right now, what would it be? The truth is, I don’t know. It sounds a little self-defeating, but I don’t feel as though I have any obvious talents. I’m not particularly good at math or science and I’m by no means an artist or a musician. My writing is good and I love reading, but the idea of analyzing book after book for an English Major makes me exhausted just thinking about it — the opposite of passionate. So where do I stand?

   In high school, it’s encouraged that students find exactly what they want to do, in order to streamline their careers. It’s understandable as to why — college and the workforce are extremely competitive. However, real life seldom follows such a linear path. People switch majors, change jobs, and go back to school all the time. There are so many opportunities out there and sometimes it takes going down the wrong path, or several paths, to find them.

   I’m slowly coming to realize that the truth of life is that few choices are truly final, and that there’s always the option of changing paths. I don’t know where I want to be right now, much less ten years from now, and that is totally okay. Uncertainty doesn’t reflect a doomed future, but reflects all of the potentials and possibilities out there.