So what are you majoring in? What do you want to be? What do you want to do with your life?
If you’re in high school or college, I can guarantee that you will be asked these questions thousands of times – and you will be expected to answer them, despite you most likely not having a concrete answer. Our world has conditioned us into believing that it’s healthy – and even necessary – to have these established long term goals and incredibly set schedules. We must strive to be lawyers and doctors and engineers and everything we do along the way should remain true to our eventual career objective. There is no time to stray from the path and we are discouraged from creating our own.
Whenever I was asked this question, I’d spit out some random, bull crap answer (which I tricked myself into actually believing), until one critical scholarship interview at Villanova University. What are your goals in life? And the answer dawned on me, just like that, with an imaginary light bulb blinking above my head and all the other ridiculous Hollywood effects that have come to represent enlightenment. My goal in life is to be happy. And it is impossible to formulate a set plan for lifelong happiness.
I’m not saying you can be lazy; and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be looking ahead. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t torture yourself over it. Your passions and interests are going to be changing all the time, adjusting to people and environments and new ideas. So it is imperative that you as an individual and as a mindset are able to go with the flow and change with them. If you follow your passions, you allow yourself to find what truly makes you happy. And once you find what truly makes you happy, then the possibilities are endless.
We’ve been told a lot of what college should be to a student. It should be a vehicle toward success, a way to get a degree, a prerequisite for that high paying job on Wall Street. It should “teach you how to think,” and blah blah blah. So yes, maybe it should be and do these things; but more importantly, college should mirror the advice of Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University. I paraphrase Roth’s opening address on Friday April 19th, the last day of WesFest, when I say: Find what makes you happy, get really really good at it, and share it with others. Simple but elegant, Roth’s words were exactly what I needed to hear before my high school graduation and during the preparation time for college. And it seems to be a fool proof method to success, as long as you define success as happiness.
The logically subsequent question to ask would then be how does one find what makes him or her happy? And once again, the answer comes in an utterly coincidental Q&A with someone by the name of Josh Radnor (aka Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother). When Radnor made a surprise appearance at my orientation, he said a number of things that really stood out. One was that “the present is where everything is happening.” So look around; be aware of what’s happening at this very moment. Stop planning everything out because for all intents and purposes, the future is imaginary. And when the future becomes the present, it’s no longer the future – it’s the present. You’re preparing for a period of time that doesn’t exist and can never exist. As long as you’re aware of the present, your passions will find you. And your passions will make you happy.
The bottom line is to not have a plan; or rather if you do have a plan, make sure it’s flexible, versatile, and able to change with the wind. Write it on toilet paper instead of etching it in stone. Tread lightly, be easy, and “prepare yourself for the possibility that everything does indeed work out for you.” Life isn’t as serious as you make it out to be.