I remember where I was the moment I realized I had no idea what to do with my life, mostly because it only happened a few weeks ago. It was the Friday before finals in the winter 2008 quarter. I was walking on that road between Starbucks and the Administration building. A wave of panic washed over me. I had no idea where I wanted to go in life.
The plan was always to graduate from college, but now that I was in my third year at UC Irvine and graduation loomed in the distance, I needed to take my future into serious consideration. For a while I kicked around the idea that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I truly had no idea what a lawyer does. Next, a wonderful TA suggested I could become a history professor. Despite being infinitely nerdy, the idea was something I pondered. I love writing and wondered if it was something I should pursue professionally. The plain truth was that I had no idea where I would end up after graduation.
I became lost. I still worked hard to keep my grades as high as possible but, without any goal to strive for, it became difficult to pool the motivation required to review my notes or re-read the text books. Time did not help me find the right path on my journey. As I struggled to understand what I wanted to do in this world, I only became increasingly lost in its currents.
Then I listened to advice dispensed from dozens of sources. I asked anyone who would listen, what should I do? One friend suggested imagining my own funeral and how I wanted people to remember me. Of course, I wanted to be remembered for being Batman, so that was out. My parents remained as vague as possible in order to avoid any guilt about forcing me into the wrong career. I could have contacted the Career Center or one of the many places available for guidance on campus, but I am a dude and we have a hard time asking for help from the establishment.
I began to consider seriously a variety of insane options. The most prominent and recurring idea was for me to escape into the woods where I would live off the land, never to worry about the responsibilities of the modern world. There were two problems with this. First, I cannot grow the Grizzly Adams-type beard necessary for this lifestyle. Second, I really like women and no one wants to date a smelly woodlands hermit.
All of a sudden it came to me— why do I need to know what I want to do for the rest of my life right now? We have been spoon-fed this idea that in order to succeed we need to know exactly where we are going from an extremely early age. Nearly every celebrity has a story about how they discovered their passion when they were nine years old. Matters were only made worse when I made a great deal of friends in the drama department who have done nothing but struggle to become actors for almost a decade while the rest of my friends slave in the biological sciences department to obtain the coveted rank of doctor. Bravo to them and anyone else who has an unquenchable passion, but that kind of life is not for me.
The fact is that I do not have that kind of focus. I never had a true passion for any of my hobbies. As I grew up I acted, played soccer, wrote, camped and performed stand-up comedy. I loved all of these things, but not with the burning intensity required to pursue them later in life. I have taken classes in criminology, psychology, physics, biology and environmental science, but not one has excited me for a lifetime of experience in their field, but that is perfectly okay.
I only reached peace when I talked to a wonderful graduate student named Jennifer Piazza. She said that someday I will look back to when I was 20 and understand that at this age I can do anything and that I have plenty of time. She is completely right. I am going to take a couple years to work abroad. I do not care where; I want to see the world for a while before I settle on a career. There is no difference between someone who started being a lawyer at 29 instead of 28 so why should I get a brain aneurism worrying about where I want to go in life? The journey of life is long, and there is no rush to get to the end.