During my first year of college, I had this idea in my head that everyone already knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. It seemed as if all of my friends went into their first semester knowing exactly what they wanted to do and who they wanted to be, while I remained undecided until my junior year. Choosing a major felt like such a weighty decision that could potentially alter the course of my entire life. I felt so lost. How was I supposed to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life without yet understanding all of my options? How was everyone else so sure of what they wanted to spend four (or more) years of their life studying?
It took me three more years to figure out that I was wrong. Nobody had it figured out.
Maybe if I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have felt like I was falling behind. I spent most of my college experience feeling less than adequate because I was the only person that didn’t have the slightest idea of what they wanted to do with the rest of their life.
Eventually I decided to study business because it seemed like the practical option, but my real interests were in language, reading, and writing. I had been led to believe by my parents and teachers that liberal arts majors had a much lower rate of success in the real world, so I didn’t bother pursuing it at first. I thought of a business degree as a sort of safety net – a degree that can translate into different industries, for the person that didn’t know what they really wanted to do. Thinking business was my best option, I transferred to a school with a reputable business program. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t in the right place.
But I’m so glad I did.
During my sophomore year I would spend hours in the evening studying topics for my major, only to feel like I was filling my brain with things I didn’t care about. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was unfulfilled, like I was wasting my time when I could be learning about something I really did care about. I followed that feeling all the way to the registrar’s office and changed my major again; I was going to study English Literature. I had no idea what kind of career I could have with an English degree, but I knew that I would rather be poor and doing something I love, rather than having a decent income but wake up each morning dreading the day. I didn’t want to feel empty anymore. I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but I was beginning to realize what my interests were and I decided to follow them. It was probably the best choice I made for myself at the time, even though it meant I would be graduating a year later than my peers. I had found my niche, and I met people that were interested in the same things that I was. I looked forward to class discussions, and I went from a B student to an A student. In less than a year I was writing at a graduate level. Not only had I found something that interested me, I had found something that I excelled in.
I had spent so much time worrying about my future that I missed what was right in front of me all along.
Since my freshman year, nearly all of my friends (who were so sure of what they wanted to do) have changed their major. Many, like me, are also graduating late because they decided that they didn’t truly enjoy what they were studying, or because it took them some time to discover their interests. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out in college. Most people don’t. This is the time to experiment, to learn as much as you can about the world and about yourself.
Try everything, and follow your interests. I’m about to graduate and I still don’t know exactly where I’m going from here, but I know that my options are endless.
I’ve met someone who had graduated law school, only to go back to school to get a degree in business. I’ve also met someone who landed a dream job on Wall Street, only to later decide that the amount of stress the job was generating wasn’t worth any amount money. This person eventually decided to start their own company, and to this day still remarks that it was one of the best choices they ever made.
At any stage of your life you can change your mind and explore something new.
It’s never too late to learn about something new.
So stop worrying, and just enjoy the ride.