Vera Wang designed her first dress at 40 years old. Here I am, half Wang’s age and soon-to-be college alumna, and everyone expects me to have it all figured out. I have goals and dreams of what I want to do, of course, but how am I supposed to know what I want to do in five, 10, 20 years from now? We are only given one life, and I want to make this an unforgettable one — I’m just not quite sure how.
The problem with college, graduation and life in general is the surplus of options at your disposal. There is so much to be interested in and passionate about, so why are we expected to pick just one?
As graduation nears, I am challenged with picking a career path from a sea of options. I can attend graduate school right off the bat, or enter the job market for a bit and go back to school. I can work for a TV news station or a local newspaper. I can establish myself on the East Coast, the only home I’ve known, or drive out West and start a new chapter. There are millions of versions of myself I can create, but college is all about picking one at the ripe age of 18.
The funny part about all my worrying and indecisiveness is that I came into college with my eyes on the prize and as confident as ever. A music teacher from my high school told the seniors his son changed majors in college five times. At the time, I honestly thought that was ridiculous. College was about finding yourself and figuring out what you were passionate about, but I knew myself already, right?
I admittedly thought of all the people in Lecture Hall 1 that I would be the one to attend some top medical school. I had it all figured out in my step-by-step roadmap to success. I was the epitome of an overachiever and type-A student (I like to think I’ve mellowed out a bit over the years). Embarrassingly enough, after a professor showed one video of birth in my class, I spent some time volunteering in an emergency room. A few gross experiences with blood later, I dropped the pre-med track to save myself from the nausea. I had no idea who I was anymore, and the icing on the cake was that the COVID-19 pandemic hit right when I was starting to gain a sense of what I wanted to do.
Many people get to a point in college where they realize they were blindly following a path other people laid out for you. For me, I think I chose a major and career path I thought I was supposed to do, even though I had no interest in it. Then, the inevitable moment of realization that I needed to explore other career options hit me. After a long road of discovery and lots of doubt, I’ve landed on journalism.
What I love about journalism and any career in the communications field is the ability to learn and write about new topics almost every day. If we only have one life, why not fill it with knowledge, meet all walks of life and learn as much as possible?
I have a knack for picking up new interests and letting them go shortly after. Name any sport and I’ve probably played it (seriously, I’ve twirled batons and taken Irish step dancing classes). I had a phase where my dorm walls were plastered with NASA posters and I dreamed of going to space. I read all about Greek mythology for a week and then switched to watching sewing tutorial videos. I entered college majoring in biochemistry, and I’m leaving college with a degree in English, but that is more than okay.
My advice for the underclassmen: let go of your tight grip on the future a bit. Having ambitions and clear-set plans are great, and I’m not saying you should abandon all that, but you might discover a new passion or hobby if you let go of an idea about who you are supposed to be. Join a club you would have never been a member of in high school. Start a new hobby, even if you’re terrible at it. You may hate every new thing you try, but at least you will get confirmation that you are on the right path. Either way, you will lead an interesting life, always have something to talk about with others and definitely meet a friend or two along the way.
I might discover a new passion at 30 or have a major career change at 40. In my opinion, college and life is all about reinventing yourself, over and over and over again. Arianna Huffington co-founded The Huffington Post at age 54 and Henry Ford was 45 when he created the Model T car. Lives are uprooted and changed years after graduation, sometimes on purpose and other times by accident.
As of right now, I am unsure where I will be in a few months, let alone 20 years from now. I might be exactly where I think I’ll be, working in the journalism field in New York City, or I can have a career and life I’ve never imagined for myself. Who knows?
I may even design my first dress.
On that note, I would not be where I am today without the help of a few special people, so here goes nothing:
To my family, for supporting me throughout college and never forgetting to send the daily Wordle. Mom, thank you for always reading my stories and believing I could be a classical musician, a surgeon, an astronaut and the next Anna Wintour — all within the span of four years. Thank you for reminding me how smart (and pretty) I am when I am feeling discouraged. Thank you, Dad, for encouraging me to follow what I am passionate about and teaching me how to make an excellent charcuterie board. Tommy, you are the best big brother and I hope we watch “Avatar: The Last Airbender” together every summer until we are old and gray.
Melike, I don’t know how you’ve put up with me for this long, but now you’re stuck with me forever. Thank you for everything. I appreciate every word of advice you’ve given me, the daily thoughts you text me and your top-tier strawberry banana smoothies. You have the sweetest soul in the world, and I am so excited to see you be a successful chemist one day.
Katie, thank you for reminding me to believe in myself and live life with confidence. Meeting you was a highlight of my college years, even if I chipped my tooth that day. You always know how to put a smile on my face and get me laughing with your words of encouragement and witty jokes. Thank you for all the memories, I cannot wait to go on adventures and spend more nights eating Elio’s frozen pizza with you.
Frankie, Danielle and Ashley (aka Team Avatar), I cannot believe we are done with college. Our friendship means the world to me, and I am so excited to have mini-reunions with you all until we are old ladies. Thank you, Ashley, for cracking me up with your hilarious jokes, and Danielle, for always being the life of the party. Frankie, thank you for randomly selecting the same dorm as me freshman year. I would have never made it through that first year without you, let alone the past four years. You are going to make an incredible doctor one day, and I am so excited to get free health advice from you!
Sasha, Alison and Sam — my amazing roommates. Thank you for all the late-night conversations, five-star meals, delicious banana bread and hilarious nights out. I’ll forever be grateful for randomly being placed with you all and for our friendships.
The Binghamton University Media office, you all truly made this year an amazing one. I loved coming into the office throughout the week this year and I have learned so much through this internship. Ryan and John, thank you for your advice, encouragement and entertaining conversations. Thank you, Seth, for your warmness and humor from the first day I met you. You inspire me every day and I cannot wait to see the impact your photography has on the world.
Lakshmi, Krishna and Makoto, thank you for being amazing editors of the Arts & Culture section. You all held extremely fun meetings, welcomed me into the newspaper back when I knew nothing about journalism and are three of the kindest people I have ever met.
To all my friends at school and home, thank you for including me in your lives and for all the memories and support over the years.
Finally, one last thanks to State Street for always providing all my friends and I with a great time.
Isabella Cavallo is a senior majoring in English and is an Arts & Culture contributor.