Remember R. Kelly’s soulful jam “I Believe I Can Fly”? It was really big circa 1996. 1996, now that was a good year. You were the crème de la crème of elementary school — highest reading group, accelerated math… the whole bit. And as first grade’s resident savant you received constant praise and encouragement from parents, teachers, PSAs, posters and friends: “You can do anything you want!” And all while they fueled your ever-growing ego, you rocked out to R. Kelly, reinforcing your indestructibility. Oh, that was the life.
Though music tastes changed (hopefully), the indoctrination continued. From the moment you cruised onto that honors track, you were ensured all the opportunities in the world — or at least in the tri-state area. And, while your overall greatness would lead to an array of options, you had only one option to secure your future: accelerated learning, an impressive array of extracurricular activities, high SATs and the Ivy League.
After following the formula, you made it. Congrats. Now you can do anything you want. But after years of strict guidance, you really would appreciate some direction. So you head to your friendly neighborhood college advisor.
You walk in expecting to plan the next four years (at least) of your life. But, your advisor just reinforces what you already knew: “You can do anything you want!” Your counselor can’t choose the “right” classes, or pick the “perfect” major.
Though you leave disappointed, you figure it out. With the help of Penn Course Review, word of mouth and parental pressure you pick some classes and find a sufficient major. With perhaps a lesser level of direction than you had back in the day, college life offers an adequate amount of structure. You make it through.
It’s three years later, and you’re about to graduate. This is what you’ve been waiting for. You’ve walked an impressive path; the world is thine oyster. Yet, overwhelmed, you again seek advising. But haven’t you learned your lesson? Tut-tut! Career Services will only repeat that fateful mantra. Beyond teaching you how to navigate their website, they can’t help you produce the perfect post-grad plan. This annoys you. You want the security of years passed. Fuck opportunities.
Throughout our lives we’ve done everything to guarantee limitless possibilities for our futures. Yet, along the way we’ve become accustomed to fixed paths with predetermined directions, and now we have forgotten why we follow such a rigorous lifestyle. Options are what you have worked for! Though the choices may seem daunting, don’t forget how great it is to have them in the first place. I’m not saying you’re going to choose well, but at least you get to choose.