A Fork in the Road
Before I begin, I would like to clarify something. I’m a junior in college. I’m more than halfway finished with my undergraduate career. I have invested time in student groups, had meaningful work experience, and developed connections within my intended field of work. That being said, it may come as a surprise that I have recently been considering switching majors and pursuing a completely different career path.
The other week, I was studying for an organic chemistry exam, and in my exhausted and frustrated state, I googled, “Why am I pre-med?” (Looking back, this is actually pretty comical). The first result that popped up was a blog post from a student that was in the exact same situation as me – a pre-med student who felt no passion in his academic endeavors, who put forth endless and often futile efforts towards studying for exams, and who constantly questioned his desire to be pre-med.
This really made me think. What were my motivations in the first place for choosing the pre-med path? Am I doing this for me? When I graduate, will I look back on my time at Northwestern with regret? All of us enter college with one goal in mind: to get a degree and find a job. It seems so simple on the surface. We have it cemented in our minds from the moment we enter school as children that life will follow a decidedly linear path through high school, college, work, and retirement. With this frame of thought, it’s hard to tap into your own personal passions and pursue them in college because the fear of deviating from this path and not knowing exactly where you’re going to end up stops you in your tracks. It scares you into conformity, forcing you to succumb to the pressure placed upon you by friends, family, and society.
People are constantly telling me that it gets better, that although I may find no interest in biology or chemistry now, all my efforts will bear fruit later and I will be rewarded handsomely. But rewarded with what? What, truly, is an ample reward for wasting years of your life waiting for something that may never come to fruition? It certainly isn’t money. It isn’t a big house, or a nice car. Those things disappear. They get old and fade away, just as we do. But regrets stay with us throughout our lives, constantly creeping into our thoughts like a parasite. Being proactive and eliminating the threat of regret before it has a chance to materialize is the only solution. Don’t be that person that sits at your desk fifteen years from now and wonders where your life has gone. I know I certainly don’t want to succumb to that fate.
The purpose of this piece is not to throw a pity party for myself, nor is it to offer solid advice to those of you who are struggling with your life path, because as you can see, I haven’t exactly figured that out myself. I do, however, want you to know that there are people out there like me, like the student in the blog post I read, who have come to the realization late in their career that their choice of study might not be meant for them, and that it is never too late to drop everything and chase after something new. Remember that life is not pre-constructed. If you feel unhappy or unsatisfied, it is up to you to find the solution to the problem. Stop thinking about the future. For just a moment, think about how your life would be if you pursued something you were passionate about. Don’t think about what kinds of jobs you could get, or how much money you could make. Life may not be linear, but it always normalizes. No matter how much you deviate from the path, no matter how many high or low points you may experience, everything will always even out in the end. Remember that.