My plans for this summer have been up in the air.
In March, one of the professors for a class I take in global disaster resilience shared an opportunity about a summer research opportunity in Puerto Rico. I was excited at the prospect of traveling to Puerto Rico, especially after everything COVID-19 has taken away from us in terms of traveling, social distancing, seeing people, etc.
I applied for the opportunity eagerly - imagine! Studying abroad for two months during the summer, it would be great!
What followed was many ups and downs. I didn’t hear back about the opportunity for a while - until the end of April. By then I had readied myself for whatever outcome - whether I was accepted or not, it didn’t really matter. But I had an interview, and it went well!
I then heard back that I had gotten the opportunity. But with one condition - travel to Puerto Rico would not be allowed. I was disappointed, but not surprised. The COVID crisis is more dire in Puerto Rico, quarantining is required, multiple negative COVID tests, etc. It made sense that we would not be traveling.
Flash forward to now. By now I’m beginning to picture my summer. Working virtually on this project, staying home with my family, making plans!
All to be told that travel to Puerto Rico is now possible.
I’m not complaining, I’m excited! But for me to now forget about everything I had planned, and to drop everything and move to Puerto Rico for two months? It’s a lot. How do I work with this much change?
Before school had ended, I was feeling overwhelmed and a little lost. I promised myself that I would take the summer to really explore my possible career paths, and work to establish a true plan. My mind works in a way where I just need to take a second sometimes and figure things out. In the same way a person cleans their room, it only makes sense that you would take some time to clean your mind.
And now I’m left with this ultimate predicament, conundrum, problem, whatever you want to call it. How do I structure my summer in a way that allows me to accomplish what I’ve set out to do - figure out a path forward in my life while also exploring these new opportunities that are presented to me?
I’m so grateful for these opportunities - disaster resilience research in Puerto Rico! It’s something I may never have the chance to do again. And I’m certainly exploring different interests - I can decide whether work like this is enjoyable for me, whether it’s something that I should explore more in the future, etc.
But is it still possible for me to work to figure out my life while I’m working on a project like this? Can I still take a minute to just breathe?
A lot in life feels rushed. We’re most often pushed into so many things, for better or for worse. Pushed through school, pushed into college. At 17, we’re somehow expected to know how we want to spend the next 40+ years of our lives. How is this realistic? Why do we allow it to happen?
I sat down today not knowing what I was going to write, not knowing what was going to come out. And I’m realizing now that I’m angry. And I’m really, really frustrated.
For so long all I’ve wanted is to know what path my life was taking. Would I be an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, or something else entirely? Am I in the right major? (this last question plagues my mind daily - repeating itself over and over again) Why does it feel like so many others have it figured out already?
Of course I know that last line isn’t true - more often than not no one has it really “figured out”. But god, wouldn’t it be nice to know? How do I assess my own strengths and weaknesses and take these qualities and say “Ok, I know what my perfect career looks like.” Why is the path to the future so windy and uncertain? And why do we cling to certainty - why is it so important to know?
Whenever I try to describe this feeling to someone - my parents, my friends, whoever else - they seem to be understanding, but all I hear is “You’ll figure it out. Everything will be fine.” Yes, I will figure it out, thanks for that, but the key question still remains: How???
My number one fear is that I’ll spend so much time trying to figure all of this out, that by the time I do, too much time will have passed, and I will have missed out on too many opportunities that could have helped me reach that goal.
My fear has turned into an approach - an approach that will hopefully extinguish this fear. I’m eliminating. Rather than trying to choose something, I’m working to get rid of the options that I know aren’t right. How am I doing this? In multiple ways:
Looking for opportunities that are “different”
These are things that I wouldn’t normally do. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone is necessary for growth. The Puerto Rico research experience is just one example. It’s scary to travel to Puerto Rico, by myself, with people I don’t know - but it’s pushing me out of my comfort zone, and I might end up really loving it.
Taking classes that are outside of my major - in fact, not anywhere near it
How do you “explore” more? Try things you’ve been wanting to try for so long or have been wanting to learn more about. For example, next semester I’m taking two classes that I think I’m going to find super interesting:
Intro to Bioengineering (for non-majors)
Intro to Law
These are two classes that are completely different. I could end up really loving them! Or hating them, but that’s so great! I’m eliminating options, I’m trying them out - giving them a REAL chance - and seeing how I feel. I want to find something I really love, and this is the first step.
Joining new clubs and organizations on campus - working to become even more well-rounded as a person, and seeing what calls out to me.
Balancing your life at college is important - and I don’t know if I did a great job at this idea this past year. I want to be equally studying, exploring my other interests, taking some time to myself, and meeting new people. This is a challenge within itself - but maybe it doesn’t have to be.
And as I mentioned before - simply just trying things that are new to me, everything that I’ve never tried before, and seeing if I like them or not.
It can be as simple as that. This process of figuring out your future doesn’t have to be hard - however daunting it may be. And this is something I’m beginning to realize.
As for figuring out my major, and if I’m in the right major, that’s a challenge I’m still figuring out how to approach.
I want to enjoy what I study, but still have it challenge me every day. My ideal major would be studying something that IS hard and difficult, but this aspect won’t matter because I’ll enjoy it so much and want to work to improve and move forward.
That’s all I want.
I just need to relax my mind, take a minute to breathe, and figure out how to get there.