On my walk to class this morning, I witnessed a rare scene of pure innocence.
About 10 elementary school students crowded around the fountain in front of Osmond Lab. Their teachers lined them up for a picture, they all held still for a fraction of a second, and then they were off—gleeful, tiny convicts escaped from the cell that was their classroom.
As they walked away, I noticed that they were tethered together. Each had their hand clasped tightly around a rope, which was held by their teacher who was leading them across campus. It was the new-and-improved child leash—no collars were involved, but each child who held on to the rope was gently guided to their destination.
I am a freshman in college, but I think this is what I miss the most about my elementary, middle, and high school days. Someone was always there to guide me. Naptime, recess and sleeping in my own bed were nice, but this ease, this lack of responsibility, made everything so easy. I just flowed.
When I arrived here, I noticed that very few Penn Staters are content to relax and see where their work takes them. They shouldn’t be. It’s college—the last stop on the adolescent train before the complete free fall of adulthood, where you alone become responsible for what you produce. You must be prepared with goals and dreams. The new direction is set for you by your passions and your interests—all you have to do is follow the pre-created path.
I think that this is a great, active way to live that can provide happiness and fulfillment and everything that makes life worth living. Planning out every credit, internship and career opportunity is a productive and forward-thinking thing to do if you have a goal that you are sure will bring you happiness and a life to be proud of.
But what if that goal isn’t there? What if you haven’t found a rope to hold onto and be guided by? What if you are truly *gasp* undecided?
This realization, which hits thousands of freshman like a CATA bus every year, caused me to panic. In my head, undecided was a synonym for directionless. I would die broke, alone and without having made any sort of contribution to the world.
Then I read this letter: https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2014/05/hunter-s-thompson-to-hume-logan/
Hunter S. Thompson is known for his tales of extreme American lifestyles and heavy drug use. But this letter is full of personal wisdom and can be summed up by the following: “we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal.” In other words, people should seek to know and develop themselves and then decide upon a goal and direction that fits them instead of molding themselves to meet the expectations of a goal they initially perceive as perfect.
This calmed me down. It helped me to realize that just because the rope of direction isn’t visible doesn’t mean that it will not, one day, appear.
In the meantime, I will focus only on learning who I am by trying new things, meeting new people, traveling—all those things that sound too romantic to be possible, but in college are very doable.
So, if you are as undecided as I am, I hope that you are enjoying the exhilarating rush that comes with the new freedom of being on your own. I hope that you are looking at the lack of guidance as a possibility and not as an abandonment. And I hope that you will use the openness to discover who you are.
If you’ve found your passion and your goal, I’m happy for you and envious of you in the same way that the lost traveler thinks of his friend who backed out of the trip.
Please let me know what you think on this topic—whether you agree, disagree, didn’t or did like the way I wrote it, etc. My goal with this site is to capture some of the aspects of the freshman experience based on my own observations.