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Never be afraid to stray off the beaten path

Brandon Keelean | Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Anyone who has ever ridden in a car with me knows I am directionally challenged. It is so bad that my parents made me wait until two months after my 16th birthday to get my license. They were concerned one day I would end up in Detroit by accident.
But despite my less than stellar ability to navigate the streets of Zeeland, Mich., I at least had my life on track the summer before I left for college. I was going to major in design and political science, go to law school and work on copyright and trademark infringement cases as an intellectual property attorney.
Along the way, though, I strayed from my rigid life plan. And now, as a graduating senior, I am more lost than ever.
Somewhere amidst the spring foliage and my finals, I realized how off the path I am and how unsure I am about where my current path will take me. I have a number of theories about why I got off track, but my favorite is a simple one: Life just happens that way. If there is one thing I have learned at Notre Dame, it is that knowledge does not always present the right answer. More often than not, it just opens my eyes to more information I need to learn.
So, I am lost. Not lost in a panicked, “I am going to die in the desert” sort of way, but rather in a “let’s see what happens” way.
I should have seen it coming. Everyone told me I would lose my way at some point. I was constantly reassured by friends and family that it is okay to change your major, because not everyone chooses correctly the first time. I was told and am still told that no one knows what they are going do when they grow up.
When I started at Notre Dame, I did not believe any of that. To me, a hyper-driven college freshman, uncertainty was not allowed. I did not see a reason to stray from the path I was on. And at the time, I did not realize how narrow the road I set for myself was.
But I soon found out. During my four years as a student at Notre Dame, I have been embraced by the most wonderful, loving people. They opened my eyes to the world around me and helped me through the undergraduate experience. Like any liberal arts student, I was exposed to a wide variety of disciplines, ideas and perspectives. My experiences at Notre Dame shaped me as a person and made me the lost soul I am today.
Thus, I get to my pearl of wisdom: Give yourself the liberty to wander. Constricting yourself to one path is fine. But if you forget to turn left at the light, keep going down that road a little longer. You might discover something better – another trail with different opportunities. I kept going and got lost, but right now I could not be happier.
There is a catch to unrestricted freedom, however. I learned of it when my parents finally allowed me my driver’s license. On that day in August, my mom told me why she waited. She said it was because she loved me and she needed to make sure that no matter how far off the beaten path I strayed, I could always find my way back home.
Brandon Keelean is graduating with Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design and without a degree in Political Science. He will not be attending law school in the fall. He dedicates this column and his undergraduate career to the family and friends that gave him directions along the way. He will always call Notre Dame home. Brandon can be reached at brandonkeelean@gmail.com   
    The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.