This week, my blog has been taken over by a dear gem of a person: Christina Li. She has a blog here that talks about technology and communication, and if you’re looking for a post from me this week, you might just find that I’ve written a little ditty on texting over there as well.
“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
I stared down this question on my school newspaper’s senior survey this year, momentarily dumbfounded. It was a question I’d so confidently answered over the course of months of college interviews. For the past few months, I’d been formulating my plans for the future, shaped by the interests I’d built up over my high school.
I was a humanities kid, I’d told myself. English, literature, and philosophy formed the backbone of my identity. I could go through the shelf of Academy books I’d read over the years, making my way up Orlando and Ceremony and Peoples’ History of the United States like rungs of a ladder, like echelons of intellectual development. I’d dreamed of studying English and then either working in the international development or politics, rebelling against my parents’ gentle, yet insistent suggestions for me to study medicine or engineering.
I was a humanities kid, I’d told myself. I loved English and history. I sucked at math and avoided science like it was an abomination. End of story.
I had things all planned out.
But yet when that survey question confronted me, I caught myself by surprise with my absolute and utter hesitation to put forth a concrete response. Well, come to think of it, I wasn’t that surprised. The week before, I’d spent two days on the campus of the college I was attending next fall, attending informational seminars and meeting students with inimitable talent and a diverse variety of interests. I’d come knowing exactly what I wanted to study, but over the course of those two days, I heard about subjects, potential majors, and interest that I’d never entertained before. Management science. Interdisciplinary studies between computer science and Japanese. Human biology with a focus on global health. For the first time, the plan I’d meticulously laid out for myself was no longer so certain.
At the very beginning of the year, we talked about stories in English class. We witnessed how easy it was for Tim O’Brien in The Things They Carried to create a compelling, believable narrative regardless of whether it was actually truthful or not. We read essays and articles on how the stories that we tell ourselves—the myths we align ourselves with—end up shaping the trajectories of the rest of our lives, superseding the possibility of change and flux.
Was I truly a humanities kid, with future aspirations in English and politics? Was that what I was going to structure the next four—and inevitably, next ten—years of my life around? How could I have subscribed to such a narrative so quickly and considered fixating on those subjects without exploring new areas of focus? Did I really “hate” math and science, or was I just trying to fit myself into a certain narrative? Come to think of it, my BC Calculus class, though incredibly challenging, turned out to be one of my favorite classes throughout my entire high school career. A subject from junior year Bio in the class inequalities that come with medical testing might have interested me enough to make me consider majoring in Human Biology. Instead of debating like I’d done throughout high school, I might try out for a choir. And—who knows?—I might even take a couple of computer science courses.
After a few minutes of deliberating on that survey question, I finally decided to declare myself undecided. But this topic doesn’t just extend to academics. This past year, we as seniors have constantly been telling cumulative stories about ourselves—stories about who we are and what we like and what subjects matter to us. Though we have a lot of material from the past 18 years of our lives—and though it is admirable to have one or two lifelong passions or traits that sustain one unwaveringly throughout an entire lifetime—it is also worthwhile to consider new possibilities and interests, especially in the novel environment of college. Ultimately, I think there is an incredible, inimitable bravery in being willing to look to the future instead of drawing on the past, and in being willing to be a tabula rasa—a blank slate—and start one’s story over again.