"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
For me, the answer constantly changed. In the first grade, I wanted to be a veterinarian. In the third grade, I wanted to be a marine biologist. In the fifth grade, an author. In eighth grade, a writer for Saturday Night Live. This constant change in career choices corresponded with my ever-changing passions, and, the sky was the limit.
This freedom to explore careers came to a stop as I entered high school. Why? I chose safety over exploration. If asked, "What do you want to be?" I answered with the most reasonable answer: a doctor...In reality, I didn't know the answer to this question. I had no idea, and I was frustrated. I always prided myself on knowing vital information such as this, but now, I couldn't answer.
I answered with "doctor" anyway. I was led to believe that doctors and engineers were the highest of intellectuals. It made sense too - I was strong in the sciences, so this career would lead me to success. And those in the STEM field are constantly helping others for the betterment of society - who wouldn't want to do something like that? As a result, I took courses that would help me prepare for a career I convinced myself to pursue rather than courses that genuinely interested me. But this was not a waste. In fact, being a STEM student has been beneficial, as I learned to understand science and logic, and developed an exceptional work ethic. But, I wasn't being honest with myself.
I was too busy trusting others and I failed to trust in myself. I let others' perceptions of my intellect drive my academic career.
And when I realized this, I thought that everything would change. I believed that in college, I would be able to find, recognize and pursue my true passions. The only problem with this is, as of now, I'm convinced that those passions (which I am choosing not to specify simply for confidentiality, but mainly because I am still too afraid to admit them) are unreasonable for a future career and that they won't provide the stability I believe I need as I become a fully-functioning adult. I am still choosing safety over exploration. I'm still a STEM student, and though I am enjoying my classes, I still cannot imagine myself enjoying a career in this field (but power to the people that do).
I am too afraid to finally take responsibility for my passions. Now, we don't have time to unpack ALL of the deeper meanings within that statement. But, to keep things straightforward, let's just say that, like many people, I am afraid of the unknown. This, of course, begs the question - what is the "unknown"?
In technical terms, the "unknown" can simply be any point in the future, as no one really knows what will happen from one day to the next but when analyzing this in terms of my own, personal context, the "unknown" symbolizes anything within my life that deviates away from security and currently, the path on which I would follow to pursue my dreams and passions is filled with unknowns. This is TERRIFYING.
Of course, this is extremely discouraging for many reasons. For one, I am discouraged by the fact that if I were to choose something that I believed felt more secure, I would most likely find myself pursuing a career that will not make me happy. However, if I choose happiness over stability, there still remains this fear that I will not be able to accomplish anything in my field of choice. But when I really get to thinking about, can success really persist in the absence of happiness?
All I can say is that, like everyone on this planet, I have hopes and dreams. Right now though, these hopes and dreams seem extremely out of reach. Maybe this is so because I'm simply convincing myself that it is the truth. Maybe it really is the truth. Maybe we will never know.
Hopefully one day I'll be able to look past my fears and have the courage to say "f*** it, I want to do something that makes me happy."