Following Your Own Path
When I was in high school, I had a very difficult time making decisions. My freshman year was full of youth, dances, sports, and being the little fish in the big pond. I breezed through my sophomore year, enjoying everything just as I did throughout my freshman year. Then, I became very resentful once I went into my junior year. It was a big change in my school because that is the year when students would experience the pressure of those “big” exams and extensive college decision-making. I took all these Advanced Placement classes and met with the school counselor often. I felt like making sure I got the highest score of the exams and doing well enough to get into a “superior” university were requirements to graduate high school. My brainwashed-self did exactly that. I applied to Loyola University Chicago, Purdue University, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and even hesitated on applying to Berkeley University-California. I got the highest score of 5 on most of my AP exams, got accepted to all the schools, but even after accomplishing so much, I felt uncomfortable. All I ever heard my teachers, counselors, sports coaches, and just about every adult in the town I lived in tell me and others was to be sure I take the exams, which cost seventy-five dollars per exam, and go straight to a 4-year university where I can study and major in the career I wanted. Okay, so I got half of that done, but I felt something important was missing: an actual career I wanted. I mean, up until this point, I was just listening to everyone else who had more life experience, and had “been there, done that” already, which I know now was very naive of me. I kept tucking away some personal thoughts and desires in the back of my mind and never wanted to tell anyone what I wanted to pursue because I felt as though my “mentors” had the same single vision for every student. I know now that all they wanted was the “best” for me, but was that standard really the best for me?
I built the courage to talk to the school advisor about my vision for my future and it went disappointingly unexpected. I had to no true passion for any known career, therefore I did not know what to study. I told her exactly that. I knew college students could do General Studies of Arts at a community college before transferring, so I brought up that possibility to her. You know, to this day, I only remember few moments from my past that really stood out to me, good or bad, and this is one of those bad moments. I remember being told that community college is for those kids who didn’t do well in school, got in trouble with the law, and didn’t have a good enough future because of their indecent morality. Uhm, such a slap to the face. I then brought up another possibility of having a gap year right after graduating high school so I could explore myself and careers. No, bad idea. Apparently the only way to succeed in life is to aimlessly jumpstart into a future that wasn’t really mine. My nightly ritual after this unfortunate meeting consisted of crying and stressing myself over settling on a career that would guarantee me nothing else aside wealth.
So, I settled. By my senior year, I decided on majoring in marine biology and minoring in journalism. Where did I get marine biology from? I still don’t comprehend to this day. Journalism runs in my family and I was writing for the school magazine, so that made a little more sense. Since I knew I liked to put words on paper, I decided to submit a speech to a contest where one senior would be chosen to perform their work at the graduation ceremony. I was one of the two finalists, contesting against a male. I was told by the teacher that my speech was really good, but she thought the school would benefit from having a male student speak instead because they’re generally better leaders. I scratched the journalism idea simply out of embarrassment and, for the fun of it, I cut out the idea of marine biology as well. I didn’t feel good enough. That is how the rest of my junior and senior year sounded like. I was a very confused sixteen and seventeen year old. I didn’t know what I wanted and I feel like I, personally, was not confident enough to be making such huge decisions about my life. I worked two years towards a future I never lived, and thankfully for that matter because I didn’t want it.
The day of graduation finally arrived and I fell asleep for most of the ceremony. By this point, I felt devastated, knocked down and pressured by the many people who were paid to help students further their education and succeed in everything they do. Anyway, I come to find out that my family planned to move Austin all the way from suburbia Chicago. I was so excited because it was a different direction and something new in my life. I thought the move would be a clean start and I could do what I initially wanted to better my own future. We moved right before the beginning of school, so it was all in good timing.
Finally, I started a new chapter in my life as a college student. However, I still settled for a major I had low-interest in, which was business management. Again, I don’t know how I ended up choosing that. Right off the bat, I was taking macroeconomics, microeconomics, college calculus, and other tough related classes. I regret my freshman year of college so much. I failed at least one of my classes, dropped out of another, and maybe got a B at best in a couple of them. All I know is that it was dreadful and I so dearly wish that I had taken that gap year.
Alright, so the teary-eyed ritual became a norm once again and, just like in high school, I felt so lost and behind in life. I finally decided that my sophomore year would consist of general studies classes, which would hold down the fort until I decided what I really wanted to pursue for a career. I explored so many different careers and possibilities. I went from zoologist to FBI agent. Then it was coffee shop owner to wildlife rescuer. My grades tremendously improved and I was starting to feel like I had a good grip in my life. I accepted all the mistakes I made, a lot of which included listening to all those people who never even knew me personally. Like I said earlier, they wanted the best for me but their advice was never what truly was best for me. I strongly feel that teens already go through so much in high school, that it can all become so overbearing and overwhelming very quick. Subconsciously, society created and pushed this “ideal” image on the younger generations that, for some, made them believe that there is only one path in life. I felt pushed to take one direction in my life and was verbally knocked down for wanting something a little different. I think it’s great if a 16 year-old high school student is set on a certain school and career, but I also think it’s just as great if another student feels clueless in that aspect. Choosing and being set on one career at 15, 16, and 17 years of age is a huge decision that I came to learn, isn’t always a reality.
I’m in my third year of college and still attending community college. I keep up with high school peers and know that so many of them have transferred or switched their major. I love that because it really does show that, as young adults, we are still learning about ourselves half way into our college lives. After five years, I just recently found my passion: editing and writing. I now created this dream for myself in which I am so motivated to achieve. I know the steps I need to take in order to get there and I don’t feel a single ounce of uncomfort in this decision of mine because it is my true path. Everything feels so right and I feel so happy. That should be how all young adults should feel in the decisions they make for themselves. It’s important to realize what dreams are really your own and what path is right for you. Others can be of great help, but you know yourself best, so listen to yourself. In the face of a demanding society, one of the greatest lessons I learned throughout my teen years and early 20s is to follow my own path. I wish that I had stuck to doing that when I was younger and I would really advise all young adults to follow their own. We’re all still little fish in a big pond after all. There is a world in front of us that should be explored and 7.442 billion different paths out there. What’s yours?