Writing this article was hard. When I offered to do an article about taking 490H, on being a senior in general, I had no plans for it. But how hard could it be? It was just a reflection. I had thoughts every day, surely some of them were fit for public consumption. Needless to say, it wasn’t that easy.
When writing reflections about major life events the natural inclination is to ask: What has changed? What have I learned? What story can I tell that others will benefit from? It’s human nature to crave narrative, to want to wrap things up neatly with a bow. It’s also what made writing this article so difficult. Nothing about my senior year thus far, or even my undergraduate career, can be neatly summarized into a 400 word fable.
My college experience has not been a series of epiphanies. It’s been like drawing a map, but making it entirely from walking around and stumbling into things. Eventually, I got enough parts that I could start to pick out patterns, could start to guess what would be around the corner and how I would handle it. It’s the same confidence that seemed like sorcery to me when I was a freshman – the knowledge that if college hasn’t killed me yet it’s probably not going to, and that I’ve got a mean left hook if it wants to try. To all the underclassmen reading this, I am aware of how fake that sounds; I didn’t think I’d ever get here either.
The unfortunate thing about college, about life, is that sometimes the only way to learn is by doing. I can tell you about my map all day: go to office hours, never eat fish from the dining hall, and call your parents more and don’t lie to them, or yourself, about how many vegetables you’re eating. But, ultimately, college is a build your own adventure story – you can’t base it only off what other people tell you. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in college it’s this: your map, your wisdom, your internal best practices are never going to look like anyone else’s. Your goals and fears and idea of a good Thursday night are something you get to decide, and there’s no “right” answer. There’s no perfect job, no perfect education, just opportunities to do good work. The amount of time I’ve spent agonizing over what I “actually” want has never gotten me anywhere – so just take your best guess and keep doing to the work. The rest will come with time.