As students, we are coached to work diligently to “achieve” something, whether that be a prestigious internship, fellowship or job opportunity. We know we’re supposed to be racing toward that goal, but it’s easy to get lost along the way.
What if we return from summer break, struck with the fear that our majors might not be the best fit for us? What if someone warns us that this career we’ve been daydreaming about isn’t the most financially secure option? What if, while walking across the stage to collect our diplomas, we’re still unsure of what that proverbial calling for our lives might be?
Achieving success can become a daunting task, especially if our dreams do not fit perfectly into a straight, one-way career path. It’s more possible that we harbor a collection of hopes for our futures. Perhaps they involve travel, music composition, entrepreneurship, book authorship—or all of the above. Maybe they don’t involve any conventional career at all; maybe we think they involve too many.
Being uncertain, worried or otherwise frightened at this early point of our lives is not an indication that we have failed in our pursuit of achievement. Realizing that we don’t have much interest in the “financially secure” careers suggested to us does not mean we have nothing to offer the world. Rather, it is a sign that we are working hard to better understand ourselves and what the world outside this tiny fraction of Earth might have in store for us.
It is important to be prepared, but it is also crucial to believe in more than one option. Graduation is not an end; college is not a quest to reach a clear and definite destination. Nothing in life is really certain, so how can we be expected to be? It’s probable that life will carry us to more than one destination and present us with new dreams, even far past graduation.
We may feel discouraged, and our more outlandish dreams may get scoffed at or trigger some raised eyebrows from family and friends—but that doesn’t mean we should toss them out and unhappily pursue something “safe.” Keep in mind that those who dare to dream outside the lines are often the ones who make history.
We don’t have to have a steady picture of the future envisioned when we reach for that diploma. No matter whether we have a thousand fragments of hopes or just a blurry idea of what life could look like after we drive away from this place, we have our entire lives to figure it out.
According to Walt Disney, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Those dreams don’t have to be realistic to be real; they just require a bit of bravery, resilience and faith to come true.
After all, these lives are our own, and they don’t have to look like anyone else’s.