“To All The ‘General Studies’ College Freshman” by Megan Steinwedel

When I graduated high school, everything started to speed up quickly. Before I knew it, my first semester of college was behind me, and at the blink of an eye, I was a college senior. You don’t realize it in the moment, but your life starts to fly by. I found myself faced with questions of “Where do you see yourself in five years” or “What do you want to do with your life?” Woah. Pump the breaks guys, because I don’t even know what I want to do five minutes from now. I’m only on the cusp of adulthood and I’m expected to have everything figured out?

I think back to my time as a college freshman, and wonder why I had to have everything figured out so quickly? Why was I locked into some “career path” at eighteen years old? Why, oh why, was I blacklisted for choosing “general studies” instead of choosing a set path?

I’m going to be 100% honest with you, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I was still quoting Full House thinking it was cool (because it is, duh). Listen, I get it. College is a pathway to a career, supposedly preparing you for the real world, so it’s reasonable to say “Hey, time to get your butt in gear and figure out what you want to be”. But dude, that’s a big investment you’re asking me to make. I’m about to waste thousands of dollars on courses for a major, leading me to a potential career I might not even end up wanting? I thought buying a 5,000 pack of Silly Bandz when I was twelve was the worst financial decision I’d ever make, yet here we are.

I’m indecisive to a fault mixed with a teaspoon of commitment issues, and the idea of choosing a career path at the ripe age of eighteen, seemingly locking myself into a life I may not want a week from then, seemed terrifying. I went to community college for my first two years of college for this very reason. Now, community college gets a bad rep, but if you’re like me, I didn’t want to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars at a school where I couldn’t find a program that suited me. So, I decided to spend less money for a bit of soul searching. Even community college’s “general studies” got a bad rep. I couldn’t escape it. When I told my advisor I wanted to declare my major as “general studies” she looked at me like I’d just kicked her puppy. Despite all the grief I took for that decision, I’m glad that I did it. It gave me a chance to explore a variety of courses and really see what things I enjoyed doing, and what things made me want to shove my pencil through one ear and out the other (a valuable life lesson).

What I’ve come to realize, in my twenty-one years of wisdom, is that figuring out what you’ll do in your life stems from figuring out who you are first. Bear with me here, but these young-adult years, hell, your entire twenties, are going to be about discovering the type of person you want to be. It’s about building your brand from the logo to the jingle. It might start with figuring out a personal style, deciding what you want from a potential significant other, or how you want people to remember you after you’ve gone. In figuring out who you are in this world, you’ll find your passion in what you hope to contribute to it. It’s taken me four years to begin to understand myself. I take note of the little things like, what my favorite color is, what movie makes my heart leap when I see it pop up on the TV guide, or what foods my mother used to make for dinner that made me want to gag. In doing this, I understood more about who I am as a person, what really makes me, me. Then, I started taking note of the bigger things like, what jobs made me dread the idea of waking up in the morning, and that’s a trial and error process. You’re going to have to go through and work plenty of jobs that make you hate your existence, before you begin to find things you enjoy and can transfer into a career. Whether that’s helping people, building a business, writing for fun or writing to inform, taking your love of watching films or television shows to creating them for people to enjoy, whatever you feel most passionate about. Once you understand who you are and what you really want from the world, everything seems to fall in place about what you can do for it.

I’m not going to lie to you, there are still days where I feel like a chicken running around without its head, but that’s a part of being an adult. Everyone seems to have it together, but on the inside, they’re as freaked out as you are. Honestly, you’ll probably find yourself changing your job, or maybe doing a complete career U-Turn and doing something completely different, before you figure out the direction the winds of life will blow you into. The point I’m trying (and struggling) to reach is that these years are some of the weirdest years of your life. No one teaches us how to be an adult yet expects us to have it all figured out, as if we should be preprogrammed to know exactly what we’re going to do, and how we’re going to do it by the time you graduate. Okay, right.

However, you will learn. It’s a process, and they don’t tell you how difficult of a process it is. There are countless nights of existential crisis, and everything feels like the end of the world. You’re figuring out who you are, what you want to be, what you want to do, and what you believe in this life. What’s so important about this time in our lives is discovering ourselves, taking the time to be young and enjoy what life has to offer, finding our passion along the way. That’s your secret weapon and once you harness that power, you’ll be unstoppable. My advice to you is the same advice I tell myself when life feels crazy; simply take a deep breath and slow down. You’ll find what makes your soul spark with passion in the right time. All you can do right now is enjoy the ride.

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