The Future is Unwritten
When I started applying for colleges, I was told to attend a cheap state school in order to save money. Nevermind that I couldn't see myself there. Nevermind that I wasn't interested in studying the subjects the school was most known for. I was told to attend because it would be "easier" to take out fewer loans. Forget that it certainly wouldn't have been easy walking around a campus I disliked everyday, or trying to make friends with people I had nothing in common with.
I didn't attend that "safe" school. I attended the school I dreamed of attending, against the will of some of my loved ones, and it was the best decision I ever made.
Once I got there and began contemplating majors and minors to pursue, I was told to get a business degree, or, at the very least, a minor in business management. I was told by countless individuals that I would not get a job with a liberal arts degree. I was questioned every time the words "strategic communication and German" came out of my mouth; "What kind of job do you think you're going to get with that?"
But I didn't want to study business. I wanted to study what I was passionate about.
I got a double major in strategic communication and German. And, despite the doubts peers put in my head for four years, I had a job lined up before I had even graduated, and I'm still there, happy as a clam.
I share these stories to prove that following your heart and listening to your gut pays off. I share these stories because despite being told I was acting impulsively or irrationally, I've been able to prove those who doubted me wrong and create a life I love.
I am so frustrated by the idea of conventionality and safety. I am so tired of hearing people squash their loved ones' dreams and ambitions, out of fear that something might not work out.
Every single decision we make in life might not work out.
Choosing to attend the school I did could have not worked out. Choosing to pursue my degrees could have not worked out. Choosing to graduate early, to move into my own apartment, to buy a car, to date a boy, to dye my hair or get a tattoo... all these things might not work out.
But life isn't about playing it safe. Life is about taking chances and daring to do what you want, even if it looks different than what others are doing.
I grew up idolizing Disney characters like Mulan and Belle, who were different than the crowd and who shattered society's expectations of them. I played "A Cinderella Story" on repeat and turned the morale of the story, "never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game," into my personal mantra as I stumbled through adolescence.
When I was young I was told I could be and do anything I wanted—just like those girls in the movies—so long as I was happy and healthy. Over the years, countless adults in my life told me how they wish they had started their own business, traveled more, waited to get married, taken a gap year, quit their job... the list goes on. Every time they shared their regrets with me, I told myself I would never make the same mistakes. I told myself I would never settle. So I haven't.
But those same adults who encouraged me to learn from their mistakes changed their tune and started telling me to attend an "appropriate" school, to get a "stable" job, to put all my money into savings. They started telling me to be more careful, to slow down, to guard my heart.
The irony of being told to play it safe by people who are unhappy with their past decisions and current circumstances is not lost on me.
I have always been independent, impulsive, and relatively unconventional. And yet, people around me still don't understand:
I simply cannot sit still and convince myself that false security in the form of an unbroken heart, a conventional degree, or a full savings account counts as happiness.
I have to feel, and I have to try. I have to continue being true to myself, which means making impulsive decisions, following my heart instead of my head, and taking a leap from time to time.
And when things don't work out, I have to get up and try again, take the leap again, and put myself out there again.
I've done a pretty good job creating a life for myself this way. In fact, my life is exactly what I always imagined it would be. And now that I'm here, I refuse to let anyone tell me I'm doing it all wrong.
None of us can predict the future. Things might not work out. Our hearts might get broken, our plans might fizzle and fail. But who am I to hold myself back just in case things don't work out? Who am I to not even take a chance on doing what I love?
*Disclaimer: This post references family members and loved ones in my life; readers should know I am writing from a place of incredible privilege and support. The stories shared above helped shape me and my perspective of the world, but are not meant to be interpreted as disdain for anyone in my life.