[This post was originally written on September 2, 2015.]
I spent this past summer considering my options for the next phase in my life. My college career is quickly coming to a close, and I have to think about where I’ll be living, with whom I’ll be living, how I’ll be saving money, whether or not I want to continue my schooling, what kind of job I want, etc. The list could go on forever, but I’m trying to keep my stress levels low, so I’ll end it there. It’s a real job in and of itself to just sit and think about these things. I’ve requested information from grad schools all across the country and even across the globe. I’ve been asking friends if they’ll need a roommate next year. I’ve been weighing my options, and I’ve come to the conclusion that life is exponentially more difficult and vastly more confusing than I thought it would be. I know everyone goes through it, but no one has managed to articulate just how stressful these kinds of decisions are. Who knew I could feel so helpless and so stressed out at the same time? It honestly feels a little like drowning. And after my first experience with a panic attack, I can confidently say that I want to avoid all unnecessary stressors.
I also spent a lot of time this summer rethinking my choice in major. And with graduation just around the corner, that’s kind of a terrifying thought to have. Do I go back and change my major now? Do I spend two or three more years in undergrad? Do I have the money or means for that? Do I graduate with this Anthropology degree and hope I can get into grad school with something entirely different in mind? How much more work will that be?
With all of these questions whirring around in my brain, it’s a wonder I’m still functioning as a semi-normal human being. (My only explanation is obscene amounts of coffee.)
But the one important question I keep coming back to is: What makes you happy?
I know, I know. Cheesy. But stick with me. This is important. What keeps you up at night out of sheer excitement? How do you like to spend your time? What do you find yourself talking about so often that your friends demand that you shut up already? Are you willing to sacrifice your happiness for a potentially more stable but potentially less satisfying career?
I think the crucial thing is to be aware of what your passions are and to not dismiss them because they’re not the traditional or easy paths to success. I’ve come to realize that the people who truly care about you, the ones who can clearly see what you love to do, never lie. They recognize your potential, and they tell you when what you’re doing is good and worthwhile.
So try not to get overwhelmed by that little voice in your head that whispers, “Hey, you’re going to fail big time. Don’t even bother.” Because you certainly have a say in the matter, and it’s often never as bad as you think. You’ve survived 100% of the tough days in your life so far.
And you will survive so many more.