It really is surprising how fast time can fly without you even noticing.
About five years ago I was a high school senior, and I was on my way to college because I had been told my entire life that was what was expected of me.
The majority of my friends were going to college, a decent part of my family was either in college or had already graduated.
I hadn’t even really considered what I would do while I was there, or why I wanted to be there.
I just knew that I should go. So off I went.
You might be able to guess what happened next.
One semester went by and then I dropped out.
It wasn’t because I didn’t go to class, or couldn’t do the work.
I finally realized that I didn’t have to do something just because that was what my friends, family or society expected of me.
I should be in college because I want to further my education and have an end goal in mind, not because I don’t know what else to do with my time.
It was so refreshing to finally have a sense of freedom I had never known before: no homework, classes, or huge responsibilities at the time.
That being said, it was also a little bit terrifying; what do I do with all my free time?
I eventually found a job in South Carolina that I was interested in.
I packed up all my stuff and drove down there.
The job was working outside almost all day and doing what I loved.
The people I was working for needed some help when they moved back to their main home in Pennsylvania, and so I moved there with them too.
After a few months doing that, I had felt that I was ready to move back home but not quite ready to go back to school yet.
I found a full-time job at a nursing home nearby as a CNA and worked my butt off, and on weekends I was also a nanny for a family with five kids.
This kept me more than busy, and at the time paid for my rent and food even though I hardly had time to eat.
Let me tell you something, working this much kind of makes you miss school.
After working as hard as I could I saved up some money to travel and volunteer as well.
I figured if I was going to travel I might as well give back during my time abroad.
This was such an eye opening experience that by the time I came home I was more than ready to start my college career again.
After all this time, and so many new experiences, I knew I wanted to be an elementary teacher.
So I was accepted at Gustavus as a Sophomore transfer student majoring in elementary education.
I was a little embarrassed at first being a 21-year-old Sophmore, but eventually this became something I embraced.
I felt like I was ready and eager to learn.
I finally felt like the loans I was taking out, and the time I was putting into all this hard work was worth it.
So I challenge all of you to not be afraid to make some major life changes.
If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be scared to do something about it.
Life only gets better if you’re willing to take some risks.
Something that I have learned from teaching my third graders recently is things are hard before they get easier.
If something doesn’t make you happy don’t do it just because this is what is expected of you.
I finally realized I didn’t have to do something just because that was what my friends, family, and society expected of me.
Make your own path: chances are this will be the most beneficial to you anyway.
I am ecstatic to be a 23, almost 24-year-old graduating senior because I know I will be more than ready to go out and be the best version of myself in the real world.
I want to be the best teacher for my future students, the best friend to my loved ones, and be able to take care of myself emotionally, physically and financially when I graduate.
While I know that it might be a struggle sometimes, I feel more capable of this being a little older and prepared to do so.
So in conclusion, do what is best for you and not what others expect from you.
This is the age that most of the time we can be putting our happiness first and you shouldn’t be afraid to do.