The path less traveled

Balancing passions and obligations

Last Saturday, I became aware of my incredible inadequacy. At TEDxUVA, I listened to 20-year-old Cason Crane modestly describe his astonishing feat of climbing the highest peak on every continent in order to raise money and awareness for LGBTQ rights. By the time I turn 20, my greatest accomplishment will be having eaten the amount of cheese balls I have to date without dying. I am currently looking at my planner and realizing that next to “Week of:” I wrote “Food.” One point for Avery.

William Barton, another guest at TEDx, was the most amazing didgeridoo player ever. I kid you not when I say his performance brought tears to my eyes. And for anyone who is interested, you can purchase a didgeridoo online for $29.99 — not like I researched it or anything. In addition to the didgeridoo, Barton and Crane, as well as the other guests at TEDx, mesmerized me with their incredible talents and passions.

If someone asked me what my talent is, I obviously couldn’t be honest and say my talents are napping, going to class and eating 4,000 calories a day. I so badly wish I could say I am a skilled didgeridoo player who travels the world performing for lucky audiences. Alas, I am not.

To quote Tina from “Bob’s Burgers” – great character, great show – “I’m no hero, I put my bra on one boob at a time like everyone else.” I am no Cason Crane or William Barton. I am just another college student, going through the steps.

I feel as if millions of people are currently on the same path I am, and too often I am dissatisfied with taking such a heavily traveled path. I, like many others, feel as if I have to fit with the societal norms of going to school and getting a job. I dream of traveling the world and helping anyone and everything that needs it. Instead, I am sitting in a glorified cubicle next to a mini-fridge while my roommate is napping – so college.

I ask myself, “Why can’t I just drop out of school, get a real sized fridge, and start a travel blog?” I have two midterms next week so there’s no way I can just drop out of school now. I feel obligated to stay on this beaten path. Not only do I feel pressured by society to get a college education, I know knowledge is the most valuable thing I can have. I just want to make sure my knowledge isn’t only coming from books.

It’s important I use all of the resources this University has to offer to enhance my life and pursue my passions. Maybe this means going on an Alternative Spring Break trip, joining the Ballroom Dance Club, starting my own CIO or getting a group of friends to join me on a volunteer trip. It’s also imperative that I take advantage of our breaks. I currently have nine tabs open on my computer as I try to figure out where I want to volunteer for a month this summer.

Most of us fall too easily into the routine society has modeled for us. Sometimes, it is valuable to break free from this and explore what we love, rather than what we are told to love. Just because we have to go to school doesn’t mean we have to abandon our dreams of starting NGOs in third world countries or summiting Mount Everest.

I bet many of you can agree when I say school sometimes makes me feel like I am in one of those rides that spin so fast I get pinned to the wall and can’t do anything about it. We can’t let our obligations — or the spinny ride — pin us down; we need to take action and manipulate our obligations to help us further our dreams. I plan to heed my own advice in creating opportunity, so be on the lookout for a new Didgeridoo Appreciation Club coming soon.

Avery’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at

Published March 4, 2014 in Life

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