A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from an old college friend named Robert explaining how he was working on a book of sorts for incoming college freshman. The purpose of the book was to give advice to incoming college students to help them avoid the typical errors that most kids make their first year of college. He also explained that he had started a blog that he was using to promote the book. Out of no where he asked me if I’d write an advice post that he could put up and use for his website.
The subject of the post was supposed to be “how you were successful academically in college.” I’ve never been good with predetermined subject matter. I instead took a bit of a different angle. Instead I wrote more of a “what I wish someone had told me before I got to college” post. I won’t lie, lately I’d been feeling semi hesitant about moving to Europe. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous. But life works in weird ways, writing this post helped to remind me why I was doing it. It reminded me that you can’t be scared to live your life and take chances. I’ve posted my advice below and realized that maybe it’s not just for incoming college Freshman…
Creighton University 2012
My advice to college students in their first year? Simple: follow your passion and don’t buy into what society deems obligatory. Push the status quo. Whatever your dream is, go for it and start now. There is no right or wrong way to live life; there is no master blueprint. I know that this may sound obvious and idealistic, but it’s the key to happiness, and happy people tend to be the successful ones.
You don’t always get it right the first time.
I’d be a hypocrite if I told you that I followed this advice when I first got to college—far from it, in fact. For the longest time I aspired to go to law school in order to fulfill the “American Dream.” I wanted to get a high-paying prestigious job, which would allow me to buy a big house, a nice car, provide for my family, and give my children advantages that I never had growing up. As far back as I can remember people always told me that I’d be a great lawyer, and when you’re told something often enough it tends to leave an impression. I inadvertently got to the point where I had accepted the fact I was going to be a lawyer. I stopped dreaming. I stopped exploring. I was on autopilot. Looking back now, being a lawyer was never something I really wanted to do. It was something others expected of me, and I only ever viewed it as a means to the potential American dream I thought I wanted. Long story short: I applied to law school, got in, and then during my senior year of college decided to not go.
Keep checking in with yourself.
There I was, halfway through my senior year of college and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I felt like I had wasted four years and thousands of dollars. Luckily, I took an internship before the start of my senior year, and as a philosophy major working at a financial advising company it really helped to diversify my resume. With my mind open to other possibilities, I graduated and accepted a job at a commodities trading company in Omaha… working 45-hour weeks and hating my life. The job didn’t fit my personality. I was stuck in a desk all day, staring at a computer screen, analyzing and rearranging numbers, barely interacting with anyone else. No matter how many times I heard, “it’s your first job, it’s supposed to be terrible,” months went by and it still didn’t feel right.
Don’t be afraid of change.
One day I took a step back and asked myself what I really wanted out of life. I decided I wanted to travel, work/help people, and be challenged intellectually on a daily basis—so I made what turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. I quit my job and started working on a cruise ship. I spent six months over the past year sailing around Australia, meeting some of the most incredible people from all around the world, and racking up more ridiculous stories than I could ever have hoped for at this point in my life… all because I decided to start following my passion. A week from now I embark on my next adventure: Au Pairing for a family in the Czech Republic. I will be working for four months and backpacking Europe for another two (a dream of mine since high school). For the past year I have been following my dream of traveling the world. It has been more rewarding, both in the moment and in retrospect, than I could have ever hoped for.
Every time I tell someone what I’m doing with my life they stare at me in disbelief and say, “Wow, I wish I could do that.” Well, I’m telling you before you even start your college journey that you can do whatever you want. Will there be obstacles? Yes. Will people try and convince you otherwise? Yes. Will there be uncertainty? Yes. But the things that seem to be the most challenging turn out to be the most rewarding.
I’ve written all of this to get to the following point.
Don’t wait like I did to figure out what you are passionate about. Don’t let fear keep you stagnant. Don’t be afraid of what others will think or say to you. Follow your path and do your own thing. My life motto is ‘whatever you are, be a good one.’ There are so many opportunities available to you in college.
My advice: try everything.
Remember that discovering your passion requires a dedication to unstructured exploration. The sooner you start looking the sooner you’ll find it. Already found what makes you happy? Great! If you haven’t, keep looking. Once you’ve found what you love find a way to turn it into a career. The only way you’ll ever truly be happy is by living out your passion on a daily basis. After all, in matters of life and love it is always better to follow your passion. Who are you to row against the current of your soul?