I’ve always been told that “I can be whatever I want to be.” I thought this was true for a while, and I honestly could never understand why. I couldn’t fathom why I would somehow be able to accomplish something when it’s obvious that not everyone has been given an equal opportunity to succeed or even figure out what they want to be. But I’ve since realized that what people mean when they say that – whether they know it or not – is that I can be whatever I work to be. If I set my mind and ambitions to reach a goal, I can achieve it. Anyone can. That’s the idea, anyway, and it’s an idea that’s kept me sane throughout college. It’s allowed me to struggle through challenges and change my goals without feeling like I’m making inalterable decisions that will make or break my entire professional life. I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter much who I have been or what I have wanted in the past. What I want now and what I want in the future may be two entirely different things, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pursue them.
When I first came to college, my mind wasn’t quite set on my career path. Although I thought I’d like journalism because of my love of writing, I’d never had any experience in it, and I chose my school based on that fact; we have very flexible programs that would allow me to change majors easily, if need be. I thought about creative writing at one point, I almost picked up a Spanish minor, and I even considered advertising for some reason that I’ve since forgotten. After a few weeks and months of consideration, I came to the conclusion that journalism really was what I wanted to do. I wanted to write, and I wanted to be involved in news. It was an obvious choice. However, that obvious choice may not be my final choice.
This year, and perhaps part of last year, I’ve been realizing how much I do and do not like journalistic writing. On the one hand, it’s an amazing choice that allows me to do so many things that I enjoy: writing and meeting new people and having a genuine impact on the lives of others at times. On the other, it isn’t something that allows me to directly help anyone or express my views, and I’m finding more and more that I want to be an advocate of ideas not a surrogate for them. I can’t keep myself from openly sharing my opinions, but that is exactly what a journalist is meant to do – keep opinions as private as possible. So I’ve had to consider, in my senior year of college, the notion that journalism might not be for me after all. I had to think of alternatives and consider what my goals are and how I can accomplish them. So this semester – a matter of weeks ago, actually – I decided that I was interested in finding out more about law school. I’d never given it a serious thought before, but I’ve been thinking about where a journalism degree can take me and where it can’t. So I read up on the LSAT and law school and the career options available to law school graduates, and even journalism majors with law degrees, and I decided to take a practice LSAT just to see how hard I would have to work to actually achieve this new goal. After seeing my score and seeing how achievable a goal this might be, I took off with the idea. I ordered test prep books and made a 16-week study schedule, and I’m taking the LSATs in June.
Now, you may be wondering “what does this have to do with me?” That’s a fair question. So far, I haven’t had a career. However, what I want students to take away from this is that while the decisions you make and the careers you pursue definitely impact your future, they do not have to be permanent choices. Nothing you have done or will do needs to impact what you may one day hope to do. If you’re afraid of making a choice now or of setting goals that may be unattainable, don’t be. Be proud of yourself for having dreams, and go after them using any means possible. If you’re worried about those dreams changing, just remember that they probably will. Most people today do change their jobs, if not their careers, a number of times before finding that elusive “perfect fit.” But if you never try to reach your first goal because you’re not sure if it’s right – if you hold back because you don’t think it’s attainable – that in itself is a decision that will shape your future.
Whether you choose to pursue your dreams is up to you, but whether life moves on without you is not. All we can do is aim high with every intention of succeeding, and if we choose a new target half way, it’s not a failure or a sign of misdirection. We’re just human, and we change. But the good news is that everyone expects us to. We are expected to be different from who we are in high school, and we are expected to be different from who we are after we go to college or take our first job or go through any number of changes in our lives. So figure out what you love to do and go after it as fiercely as possible, but don’t be afraid to pursue something new. Be more afraid of inaction than action, and be confident that while you’re trying to find something you love, you’re moving closer and closer to actually finding it.
What are your career goals, and how do you intend to pursue them? Are you struggling to find one "thing" to do?