Most people learn a lot during their sophomore year of college. Supposedly being one year older and wiser, second-years not only boast more social prowess and drinking skills than freshman students, but are also swiftly approaching the time about when most people start taking MCAT or LSAT courses, declaring majors and so on. So most sophomores have begun fleshing out a vision for their future as well.
Unfortunately for me, the only thing that my sophomore year of college has really taught me is that I have very little direction in life — although this might not be as bad as it sounds.
Throughout the past few years of my life as a student, my plans for my future have been constantly evolving. I’ve considered pre-med, pre-law, pre-journalism and at a few points during finals week, I even considered dropping out of school altogether and running away to spend the rest of my life as a wandering beach vagabond selling coconuts for a living. Every time I think I’ve mapped out a definite plan, something makes me reconsider it a few weeks later.
This doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in anything. It’s actually exactly the opposite. I am interested in so many things that it simply seems overwhelming to select one subject to study or one field to pursue as a career. Concerning majors, I’ve considered quite a colorful variety — NBB, psychology, biology, creative writing, French, journalism and math —, and that confusing mishmash of topics just shows how divergent my interests are. And in reality, it is kind of unrealistic for someone to just choose one thing they’re interested in and pursue that single-mindedly, forever (plus, how scary is the word “forever”?).
Not knowing what I want to do in my future can become really unnerving sometimes, especially when faced with having to declare a major, select an adviser, organize courses and figure out post-college ambitions. This can all make someone with tentative plans feel very panicky. So when I felt particularly aimless one night last semester, hoping to exact some wise wisdom, I decided to bring up my lack of direction with my parents during our weekly dinner.
I told my dad honestly how I’ve been feeling, which is that I’m caught in this awkward contradiction.
At times, I feel really young — I just turned 20, I don’t feel independent from my parents yet and there’s still so much about life that I don’t know. These are moments when I feel like I still have all the time in the world to figure out what I want to do when I’m a “grown-up,” and that for now, I should just go out and enjoy my young life.
And other times, when faced with the reality that most of my peers will be applying to graduate schools by next year, I feel exceedingly older. These are moments when I start to stress out and wonder why I still have no idea what I want to do after college, much less for the rest of my working life.
So, I thought my dad, who has always seemed to have a clear vision of what he wanted in life, would be a good person to turn to for advice.
“Of course there were times when I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing!” my dad laughed at me. “Didn’t you know I failed the first exam I ever took in America?”
Actually, I didn’t know that. My dad immigrated here in 1988 to work toward his Ph.D. and practice medicine, and it just seemed like he knew he was meant to do this all along.
“Yes! I was so discouraged that I packed up all of my belongings and wrote your mom a letter telling her that I was going to move back home to China,” he said.
“Really? And then what happened?” I asked curiously.
“I unpacked everything two days later and went back to class,” my dad stated.
And that was that.
Honestly, I still don’t know what to make of this story, but what I got from this exchange is that when you’ve found what you’re supposed to do, it will feel right. You will know it.
So right now, I might still be torn between humanities and sciences, pre-med and pre-journalism, my NBB and French double majors and at times still even considering booking that one-way flight to Costa Rica. But I’m not too worried. I still have a little bit of time to figure out what I want to do, and in the meanwhile, I’m not going to be shy to explore the eight million interests that I do have right now. So even though I have no direction (or I guess it would be more appropriate to say that I have too many directions right now), I’m not panicking that I won’t ever figure out what I want to do with my life. When I finally stumble across what’s right for me, I’ll know it.
Editorials Editor Catherine Cai is a College sophomore from Atlanta.