Everyone fears uttering those three little words.
It requires a degree of self-awareness, honesty and a willingness to be vulnerable. And even after reciting them in your head and knowing they’re true, you still fear they’ll backfire once you get the courage to say them.
I am, of course, referring to the words “I don’t know” – usually stated feebly after a family member or curious acquaintance asks what you want to do with your life. And nothing quite crystallized the immediacy of making that decision as much as spring break did this year.
My parents grilled me on my life plan. When I told a friend I was in a philosophy class, she asked if that meant I was going to law school. A beer pong opponent asked if I want to be a journalist forever.
I. Don’t. Know.
And this is new for me. I was always “sure” of my career path and plans, with an explicitly charted course, down to the cities I wanted to live in for certain years of my life. But part of these four years is not knowing what lies three steps down the road.
And the truth is, if we act like we know more than our next move, we’re probably fooling ourselves.
It seems as though lots of students at GW have it all figured out. If college were a 30,000-foot jump from a plane, they’d leap gracefully, glide through the air and open their parachutes at just the right moment, landing softly, and with both feet, on the ground.
Then there are those of us who are still exploring what we love – trying out different courses and career paths – and I imagine our falls look a bit more like a scene from a cartoon: panicked eyes sucked back into their sockets, cheeks flapping against the tremendous speed.
In D.C. and at GW, it often seems as though it is necessary that we come onto campus knowing exactly what our life plans are. So it’s difficult to see that college is also a time to amble through some strange terrain for four years. It’s an adventurous free-fall with few certainties, aside from Froggy Bottom Mondays and Metro delays.
And believing you know it all might blind you from what you actually should bear in mind.
Upperclassmen, think back to where you were exactly a year ago. Freshmen, look at where you are this semester compared to your last. Think about all the things that you’ve learned about yourself, the events that shaped your attitude and what makes your heart catch fire.
You’re pretty different, huh?
That’s college, and that’s a good thing.
Having it all figured out might be just as dangerous as having too many interests. Our plan today might completely change in five years. It might not even be our plan tomorrow. Limiting ourselves at the period when we’re supposed to explore could cause us to miss out on something life changing.
More than 50 percent of college students change their majors at least once, according to Princeton Review. People switch careers an average of five times in their lives. Even the most resolute of us will likely change course.
Following our passions and working hard at them might lead us to more success and unexpected happiness than any strict path. We might catch sight of the most important thing in our lives while we’re fumbling for a parachute.
So somersault through space. A panoramic view and willingness to look around may keep you from missing out on what you love.
Once you land at the end of your college career, all those unpredictable air flips will look like pirouettes.
Annu Subramanian, a junior majoring in journalism, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.