Even though graduation is just a few weeks away, it feels impossible to wrap my head around the fact that my college years are coming to a close. As I grew up, I always thought of the year 2022 as the faraway future where I would have some type of idea as to what the rest of my life would look like. Up until this point, a lot of us have known what the next step would be — after elementary school, there was middle school, high school and then college. For myself and a lot of people, this may be the first time in our lives where we don’t know what the next step is or how we’ll get there. We don’t know where we’ll be living six months from now, who we’ll meet or what we’ll accomplish, but that’s completely okay.
College is often thought of as the place where you are given the opportunity to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life career-wise. I’m sure that is probably what a lot of us tell ourselves, so we don’t feel that much pressure in high school to decide on a life-long career path at 18. At the same time, some people in high school have a grand scheme mapped up of what they want to major in during college and what career path they want to follow from the very start, and I was one of those people. However, I’ve come to learn that in the case of myself, my friends and peers, college is more likely the time where you question that plan you made at 18. A majority of the people I knew four years ago are pursuing completely different paths, or even questioning whether they’re still interested in the subject they were once so passionate about.
A lot more people would take comfort in knowing that many students graduate college without having a set concrete timeline of what will be happening for the next 40+ years. It’s unfeasible to expect one to stick to one plan and not expect any growth or shift in goals after college. What we can take away from our college years are the skills we’ve learned, the knowledge we’ve gained, the experiences we’ve gone through and the people we’ve met. College is really more about the time you spend learning as much as you can, personally and academically, so that you actually expand your horizons. It is for that reason that as freshmen we start college being told to join clubs, talk to new people and partake in novel experiences. As a commuter student for three years, I understand that this sounds a lot easier than it actually is. For many, instead of college being a transformative, monumental change from the start, it can feel no more than a varied continuation of a previous routine. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic did not increase opportunities to branch out, but, if anything, it did generate a new appreciation for actually being able to be involved in campus life.
While this year marks the beginning of the end in some aspects, it is also certainly a new start. Life at 22 may be completely different from what you planned at 18, and that’s not something to be afraid of. Take advantage of different experiences, meet new people and don’t narrow yourself down to a set path, because you’ll likely discover that there are an infinite number of directions that your life can go in.
Sana Malik is a senior double-majoring in biology and philosophy, politics and law. She is an opinions columnist.