So what?

The second phase of self-discovery in college

As a fourth year, I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on my college experience. I would call the first half of college a time when I was discovering who I was and who I wanted to be. Somewhere between my second and third year this energy shifted to a phase that I am still in today.

Now, I have a pretty good idea of who I am and what I stand for. The question has become: so what? How is my personality going to shape my future?

One of the aspects of my personality that I have come to embrace during college is the fact that I am an idealist. My choice of majors — English and religious studies — is pretty demonstrative of the fact that I care a lot more about ideas and understanding other people than I do about anything strictly “practical.” As I move forward in the search for what’s next in my life, I find this trait of mine manifests in several ways.

In my interactions with my friends who are often much more inclined toward what is “practical,” I maintain belief that we shouldn’t sacrifice ideals to get things done. A friend of mine recently told me she advised a younger student not to take classes that she can’t get an A in if she doesn’t have to, and not to join clubs that won’t look good on her resume. After I finished cringing, I made sure to tell her that she shouldn’t have offered that counsel. Shouldn’t we still value intellectual growth outside of any extrinsic reward?

A few weeks ago, in one of my classes, my professor posed the question, “Why do we go to college?” Thinking that this was an easy opportunity to get in some class participation, I raised my hand and responded, “To learn!” After the professor made it clear that my answer wasn’t what he was going for, someone else raised his hand and said, “To get a job.” “Right,” I thought, “That thing I am supposed to be doing this year.”

But what does my unfaltering idealism mean going forward? While I decide what to do after graduation — and thus find out what my college years have been for — I have to confront the consequences of my idealism in a very real way. Sometimes, it makes me wonder if it is always a good idea to embrace this part of who I am.

In the immediate future, my life would probably be a lot easier if I had prepared myself with more practical skills to list on my resume. The people who have done so are likely going to be more able to support themselves and their future families, and I admire that. I probably should have taken my dad’s advice and taken statistics. (I’m still not going to — sorry, Dad.)

And so, I’ve arrived at this new chapter of self-discovery. It may take me a long time to figure out the “so what?” of who I am, but deep down, I do believe everyone was created with a purpose, and my personality must in some way contribute to whatever my purpose in life is. In the end, I have to figure out how I can use my idealism and my other personality traits to contribute to the world, even if that path isn’t as straightforward as others. I know that the world needs all types of people — of which I am just one — so I am doing my best to hold onto faith that I will find my niche.

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