4 min read
A young man came into the library today. He was looking for some books to read over the summer.
"What grade level?" I asked.
"Oh, I'm done, I graduated," he replied.
"Oh, so you were in the parade through town, celebrating..."
"Yep. Sure was..."
"OK, so let me see what I can pull up, here..." I looked up the reading lists for the school and found some AP suggestions. "Are you going to college, are you gonna work, do you have plans, yet?"
"Oh, I'm going to college, for sure. I'm not sure of my major..."
We chatted a bit more. Then he took Dubliners, by James Joyce, thanked me, and left. Great kid, polite, kind, curious. I'm excited for him. Glistening with potential.
After he left, I began to think about these graduates and the world that they are walking into, right now. As freshmen.
To the College-Bound Graduates:
I wish I knew what to tell you about all of this. About the state of the world, of the pandemic, and politics, and climate, and social injustices, and the economy. I wish I knew what to tell you to major in so that you'd soar, in these shifting times. I wish I had a clue... I don't.
And see, that's the thing. Even us, as adults, aren't sure of things day to day. We do our best. We just show up, stay kind, work hard, take care of ourselves, and do our best.
But I would tell you to try things. If you don't know what to major in, then don't. Take an assortment of classes, they're all for credit. You can major in Liberal Arts for two years and then decide. You can switch over. You can always take a class or two later to make up some credits, to round out a major. Don't feel that you have to know it all up front and then go in. Many students don't. It's okay not to know.
Some students know early on what they want to pursue. Medicine. Law. Biochemistry. Nursing. Psychiatry. Veterinarian. Political Science. Teaching. And many, many students don't have a clue, and they see college as a necessary step in their lives, that they want to take, but aren't exactly sure what courses to take. And perhaps, for them, it's the experience itself that grants them what they need...
The exchange of ideas with your peers, in a new and expanded setting. Healthy debate. New perspectives. New worlds of inspiration and reading and research. New friendships and clubs to join. Many students have the soul of an artist or philosopher and just need to try a lot of disciplines out, before they choose. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Try things.
This...is life. Not knowing, and having the mindset to just... start... despite not knowing, is what great success stories are made of. Diving in without a map shows a bit of adventure and curiosity and ambition, a desire to learn by doing, which is a wonderful, wonderful thing. It's a perspective that you can take further in to life, not just with school. This is the creative mindset and it's incredibly valuable, especially in the world that you'll be joining. Flexibility, creativity, adaptability will all be essential mindsets to hold onto.
Trust that you'll find your way and things will speak to you and teach you, as you go. You may figure it all out in college, and you may not. It's just a step, but walk ahead with enthusiasm. We are learning are whole lives through, and college is a wonderful stop along that road.
We're all fools on the road of life. Some of us didn't go to college. Some of us went out after high school and plunged into the world of business and never looked back. Some went head-first into their artistic dreams, and never looked back. It can be nice to have a passion, to know exactly what you want to do with your life. But it can also be a lifelong adventure to not know... to show up and continue to learn and grow and explore. And many of us who live in this way, become teachers, in one way or another. Life teachers. Way-showers. Leaders. Trust your choices as they come up and keep checking with yourself. And remember that you're living a story and don't get too mired down by one moment, because moments come and go that challenge us to the core.
Remember when those moments come - doubt, fear, paralysis, pain, loss, heartache, confusion - that they are temporary, and that you can get up and dust your pants off and keep going forward. And figure things out.
I know that you'll make the world a better place, in your own way. Take your time and explore yourself and how you feel about things. About life. And how you'd want to improve it or document it or enhance it or entertain it. And just start. Read voraciously. Educate yourself about what fuels your passions. Try things, over and over again. Just try things. Live your youth.
And we can't wait to hear what you have to say.