About halfway through my college career, I completely lost faith in just about everything — myself, my major, my talents, my choices, my family; you name it, I was disillusioned with it.
There were innumerable causes for this uncontrolled spiral into despondency, but the one I primarily attribute it to is my dissatisfaction with what I was doing at the time. I was a Creative Writing student, in my junior year, and I was absolutely miserable.
When I had chosen Creative Writing as my major, it was more out of desperation to just pick something than it was a measured, rational decision. The pressure to pick one thing and stick with it hits your senior year of high school and comes from every direction: your parents want you to know what you’re doing with your life, your teachers want you to pick what they think you’ll be best at, your counselors advise you to go to this or that school because it matches one (or maybe two) of your skills. Even your friends seem to be in on it.
But I was eighteen.
The “rest of my life” still seemed like a lifetime away, and I was too passionate about too many things to want to pick one. I felt like the split in the road ahead of me was a burden, a phony mechanism placed on students to force them into “normalcy,” instead of an opportunity to learn.
So I procrastinated, procrastinated, and then procrastinated some more until I backed myself into what I thought was a corner, and then picked a school and a major, almost at random. I say almost because creative writing was at least one of my interests; it just wasn’t what I imagined I would do with my life. Everyone always told me I was good at it, so I went with it.
The novelty and excitement of college kept me riveted for about two years, and then the resentment and regret began building like a hurricane in my subconscious. Due to an administrative error, I was classified as an Engineering instead of an English major, and as time went on I began to think it was some kind of cosmic joke at my expense.
At this point, however, I was already mostly finished with my degree plan and didn’t have the money to start all over again. So I graduated with a degree that was basically worthless by my estimation, and was out about $40,000. Ha ha ha.
The spiral continued out of control until I got my first writing job, and even then, it still lingered like a ghost. I was so upset about my decisions that I stopped making new ones. I felt trapped and powerless.
And then, as if by magic, I realized something: by refusing to act, I had created a dynamic that was all reflection and no action.
Let me break this down.
Everyone knows that there are a myriad of paths to choose from and that, generally, people pick one, sometimes two. This metaphor is constricting to those of us with many passions because we realize that traveling down one path means sacrificing the others.
What I had done in high school was basically sit down at the point where all the paths diverged, and put up a white flag. And then I reflected on every second that passed, imagining what life might have been like had I gone down any one of the paths.
Eventually I chose one, but instead of running full tilt down the path and embracing it, looking for new paths or just plain wilderness to roam through while running, I crawled along, still reflecting on the lost time.
Don’t do this.
Yes, it is difficult to know how to leverage your different interests into one unified thing, but inertia kills passion, breeds resentment, and obscures new opportunities.
Had I acted and not paused to think, I would have learned more, and could have made more of the time spent in college. I could have pursued my other interests in clubs or classes; or if I really didn’t like it after I had given it everything I had, I could have changed majors.
But no matter what the situation, there is always an opportunity to grow, learn, and synthesize. After I realized this, I have been happier, healthier, and more productive than ever.
In your life, as much as possible, make action come before reflection. Act first, and then reflect on that action, and then act again.
And remember that paths are only created by many people walking the same direction. Just because there is no path, doesn’t mean there is no way. You just have to act and move. Maybe somebody will follow behind you, and you can make a new path.
This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online university. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.