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Existing in the grey

| Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I remember the first time I realized things don’t always pan out as we expect. It was junior year of high school, two weeks in, the day I got my first physics test back and had a mini mid-life crisis. For someone who was convinced she wanted to be a famous female engineer for all of middle school, realizing that I not only was not particularly good at physics, but that I actually hated the subject, was a major shock to my system. What was I going to do? I didn’t have another plan; I had never really considered anything else. I had always been told that STEM careers were the most important, the most lucrative, the most impressive and therefore better. So I set off in search of a science that would interest me, all the while performing far better in the humanities, and decided neuroscience sounded pretty cool.

I also remember the second time my career goals were shaken. It was freshmen year of college, a few weeks in, when I realized my discussion-based humanities seminar was about a thousand times more interesting than my general chemistry and calculus classes and admitted to myself that I did not want to spend most of my career in a lab. When it came time for registration, I disregarded the negative stereotypes of “arts and crafts” majors that had been pumped into my brain since elementary school and switched to the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS). I haven’t looked back.

PLS involves a healthy dose of uncertainty. When classes revolve around trying to figure out what “the good” is, it’s not particularly surprising that any answers we come to are not black and white, but somewhere in the grey area between the two. People seem shocked when they ask what I want to do after graduation and my honest response is, “I don’t know.” I’m baffled by this. How can I pretend, as a 19-year-old, that I know what I want to do for the rest of my life? I’ve barely lived. Some may take that statement to mean I don’t have goals. I do. They involve being happy, feeling fulfilled and concretely improving the lives of others. I’ve simply realized it’s better to allow for some movement as far as goals go because life exists in the grey.

When I told my parents I wanted to switch to PLS, their response was this: “You have four years to study what makes you happiest. Why would you spend them studying something that makes you miserable?” Their unfailing support and total trust in my ability to discover the right path for myself have given me the confidence to embrace the grey and pursue a life that accepts the inevitability of uncertainties rather than fears it. That freedom is unrivaled.

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