The Gustavian Weekly

It’s Okay Not to Know - The Gustavian Weekly

By Maddy Smerillo - Opinion Columnist | September 25, 2020 | Opinion

I started my undergraduate degree feeling certain that I would major in Political Science. I knew that I wanted to work in government or the nonprofit sector. I felt good about this certainty I possessed and, at times, better than others because of it. When friends would say they were undecided in their major, I would feel a sense of relief that I already knew what I wanted to do.
Government and non-profit work was my guaranteed career path for exactly nine months of my time at Gustavus. By the time my sophomore year rolled around, I had major doubts that the public sector was meant for me. By the time I was a junior, I was set on going to law school.
During the pandemic, I have had ample opportunity to deeply think about the career path I have lined up for myself. This period of reflection has led me to two key realizations: the first being that I do NOT want to become a lawyer and the second being that a flexible outlook will provide more opportunities than a unchanging plan.
Despite my early assuredness of my major and the positive social response I always got when I told people my plans, the goals I set for myself were not the ones I actually wanted to pursue. Rather, they simply seemed to make sense within a rigid mental structure that I constructed to maintain stability amidst all the changes that come with going to college. This structure ultimately led me astray and took my focus away from finding a path I felt truly passionate about pursuing.
You see, the fact that I appeared to have my life together during my first couple of years at Gustavus means very little now that I have changed my mind. All it did for me at the time was give me a false sense of confidence and take my attention away from doing the things that I love. If I had not been so set on following a certain path, I would have been able to absorb and enjoy life’s moments more thoroughly. Because I have now let go of the strict expectations to which I was holding myself, I have an endless number of new things to try and places to go. I can discover a more fulfilling path for my future because I’m not inhibited by trying to map everything out. Instead, I can take my time to do what my gut tells me is the right choice and move forward from there.
Given this knowledge, here is my advice to all Gusties:
Focus on the present. We should not spend our time today seeking what will make us happy five years from now; we should spend it finding that same happiness right now. Ask yourself: what do I need to do to make today as wonderful as it can be? Do not neglect the present in order to think about the future, that does an injustice to the you that exists in the here and now.
Take risks. Starting college without a firm idea of what you want to do with your degree or even knowing the field in which you want that degree is just fine. You have time before you need to decide where you are headed, which means you have the freedom to explore many different options. Use this time to try something you may not have been able to try if you were on a fast track in a specific field of study. If you end up hating it, at least you know.
Maintain a flexible mindset – it is okay to change your mind. Having it all figured out is not the key to success. Instead, figuring out what you need and want in the moment is. What is the purpose of starting a career in a field you have no interest in? You and the world will benefit more if you can find what makes you happy.
Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. Even if you know people who seem to have it all together, that has nothing to do with you. There is no magic point in your life at which you are supposed to know what you are doing. Some people take comfort in planning, that doesn’t mean doing so is the right solution for everyone. Instead of worrying about how you compare to your classmates, focus on what you can do to get every ounce of goodness out of your world and to give some back, too. If you can find fulfillment in your day-to-day life, you just might discover that you are unstoppable

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