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To be or not to be

| Thursday, April 11, 2019

Who am I supposed to be? I always thought I knew the answer to that question. When I was 5 years old, my answer was vet. When I was 10 years old, my answer became astronaut (watching “Contact” ended that prospect really quickly). When I was 14 years old, it became surgeon. I came to college knowing exactly who I was. I came to college sure of my future, sure of myself. As my first year at Notre Dame comes to a close, I am less and less sure of my answer to that question.

Adults always say that this is the point of college: we are supposed to find out who we are supposed to be, who we are meant to be. So, why is there so much pressure to decide? Why is there so much pressure not just to have an answer, but to have the right answer? We are supposed to choose what kind of person we are going to be for the rest of our lives in just four years. We are supposed to decide what we are going to be during the most confusing years of our life. How is anyone expected to do that? We grow and we change. So, why is it expected of us to be perfect? Why do we have to be sure now?

Now is the time to make mistakes: to stay out late, to make new friends, to major in philosophy (because there’s no way one can make a career out of that) or to do something a bit risky. Make mistakes over and over again. Now shouldn’t be completely spent stressing on the“what ifs.” Now is the time to be ourselves. When we look back on our lives, we don’t want to regret losing the free, infinite feeling that we have stressing about the maybes. Where will this get us? We are not a compilation of our various stresses. We are more than what we are stressed about. Maybe we should spend more of our time finding new ways to define ourselves.

I would have laughed a year ago if you asked if I had ever considered not being a surgeon. I knew what I would do and where I would be for my next 10 years. I had a plan; one that would ensure that I would never feel lost. One that would make life easy. Well, even with this plan, I still feel lost.

We can’t plan away our worries and life’s complications. If we could, life would be much simpler. But, we can’t and it isn’t. This doesn’t mean that we should stop planning and looking toward the future. It just means that we should take a second to reflect on what we are doing and ask “why?” I have spent what seems like most of my life trying to organize myself into the perfect person. I would plan everything to the very last detail. I wouldn’t leave room for mistakes or fun. I just imagined that life would come later. But, what I have learned here at Notre Dame is that it’s okay to have your long-term goals. I have spent the last few years assuming that I needed to be a surgeon, assuming that any other job wouldn’t make me a good enough person. I want to make an impact in the world, and I thought that being a doctor was the only way. But, it appears that I have ignored so much more of what I am good at and what I love to do because of this. There’s no point in making yourself be miserable trying to be somebody that you’re not, trying to just be somebody.

Life is too short to pretend to be something that you’re not. If you spend all of your time looking to the future, suffering now so that eventually — one day — you might have the possibility of being happy, what’s the point? Enjoy everything that life throws at you. The things that you least expect could change you the most.

Be you without a doubt. Make mistakes to figure out what you are not. Do this knowing that by the time that you leave here you can really answer the many questions that your relatives ask: Who are you? What are you doing with your life? With this you can answer them. Being present means that you can truly know who you are. And with that, you can do or be whatever you want. So, say yes, say no. Who cares? Be yourself. Know who you are.


Ellie Dombrowski is a freshman at Notre Dame majoring in Biochemistry. She is originally from Long Island, New York and currently lives in Lewis Hall. She aspires to become a surgeon and to make a change in the world. She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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