In the 22 days that I have been home from my first year of college, I’ve answered the question, “So, how was school?” about 50 times. Sometimes the question is merely uttered in passing as a polite greeting; those are my favorite encounters, as I can smile and reply, “Great!” without having to delve into the winding stories of stressful nights fueled by overwhelming classes.
Others are truly interested– or at least pretend to be– in the events that have consumed my life for the past 8.5 months. I don’t quite recount the tales of my successes and frustrations with as much vigor as I did 22 days ago, as the frequent repetition of these stories has left me slightly less willing to share them in their entirety. (You’re welcome!)
All who inquire about my first year of college have responded with some version of, “The years go by so fast!” followed by their own unique take on my experiences through laughter, comparison and advice. While conversations with adults often lead to “back in my day” anecdotes, I try to take their guidance to heart with hopes that it will come in handy in future semesters.
What I wasn’t expecting, however, was to receive the most thought-provoking wisdom from two of my close friends, Bree and Livie. As juniors in high school, Bree and Livie went to high school with me for two years before I was forced to leave them behind. I had the pleasure of getting to swim with them for both years, during which time I looked up to them in so many ways, despite being the one who often had to provide them with advice.
As the three of us caught up over milkshakes and a large plate of fries (I’m tellin’ ya, swimmers can eat!), I eagerly pestered them about their thoughts on potential colleges after I finished rambling on about my own experiences. Bree, an aspiring physical therapist, plans on attending The Ohio State University, while Livie, a zealous swimmer, has her eyes on the College of Wooster.
When I asked her what she planned on majoring in, Livie’s eyes lit up brilliantly as she replied, “Psychology. Hopefully I will be able to become a sports psychologist because it would allow me to do what I’m passionate about.”
And that’s what got me thinking.
I entered college with aspirations to pursue broadcast journalism, and I began the year by diving headfirst into WOUB, the Public Broadcasting Station at Ohio University that is primarily run by students. As the school year progressed, I found myself feeling forced to do what I felt I had to do in order to find success later on; the newsworthy tales of fires and floods were no longer piquing my interest.
I had contemplated the idea of switching towards the strategic communication track of journalism so I could pursue my writing and videography interests with a little more creative freedom, but I felt hindered by the notion that I would be disappointing everyone who had ever insisted that they would one day see me anchoring the news.
By allowing what others conceivably were thinking to dictate what I could be doing for the rest of my life, I was shutting down the voice in the back of my mind that was urging me to explore other clubs and organizations on campus and truly pursue what I am passionate about.
Livie’s response seems too simplistic to have struck me with an epiphany this profound, but it ultimately gave me more of a push than the well-thought-out advice I had received from every adult. It confirmed what I had been feeling all along, yet for whatever reason, I just needed someone else to verbalize it for it to truly register in my mind.
The conversation progressed and our milkshakes were polished off, but the aftertaste that lingered with me was not of black raspberry chocolate chip, but rather a confident voice echoing in the back of my mind, “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”