I started my first year with a plan — albeit a loose, undecided-major plan. But a plan to find a STEM major, discover an area of research that struck a chord and slide on the greased path all the way to a career. Join the ranks of female scientists or engineers, as my parents suggested. Many students have similar experiences, because up until this point education has been an assembly line. Get these grades to get into that school. Take these courses to take those courses.
In the twist you never expected, things did not go as planned. The approaching deadline to pick a major spiraled into “maybe I could study biochemistry” — indecision should’ve been my first clue — and then “I’ll just settle for what I already have the most credits for,” which was Cognitive Science. This degree made sense given logistics and my aforementioned plan, but just because it worked did not mean it was completely right. I stuck with it, making sure my previous course work went toward something, but it felt like a detour. I had to take a wrong turn to figure out that what I actually wanted hadn’t been considered in the original plan. Books! Reading and writing! I find it funny how other people’s thoughts and expectations create the false sense of a plan. It is like peeling back carpet to — holy moly — find beautiful vintage tiles beneath. Patterns and colors have so much more personality.
Given this, joining The Cavalier Daily was never part of the plan. I did not apply until the spring of my third year, because either I was afraid I would not make it or I thought I should be doing something else. I let preconceived notions take up a lot of space during my college career. But it has worked out, because every couple of weeks I get to write something a little weird, and someone on the internet may or may not read it. Doing something a little weird helps college feel less like a contest for most recognition.
From my experience, plans are good, and they are better when they are your own. If things go according to plan, great! Get that degree! Otherwise, consider that you might need to rip up a carpet to find your tiles beneath. I know you can feel them somewhere under your feet. By the end of your four years, you will be wondering who put the carpet down in the first place, even if it was you. But it is okay — that is what renovations are for.
Looking back, it feels silly to try and plan four years of life. That is so much time to change and explore. If you asked me what my plans are for the next four years I would shrug and say, “get a job somewhere, do something fun.” Which is both terrifying and liberating. It is incredibly stressful not knowing what the path ahead looks like. But it means I have the option to choose or change at any point. I have not bound myself to a plan that I am forced to follow through with since that historically has not been effective.
Despite my previous desire to graduate at 80 years old, I will in fact only be the fragile age of 22. From this article’s perspective, this is a blessing, because if I had to write one more critical essay as though I have not already proven my ability to use formulaic reasoning I would have imploded. It also means I still have many years to rekindle my love for purposeless knowledge. Thomas Jefferson was right about life-long learning. I will tentatively plan for long walks, pottery classes — to remember that living isn’t about narrowly defined success — and maybe even picking up a newspaper once in a while.
Our unique fascinations with life aren’t interested in what should be. If I think I should be a psychologist — specifically to pay the bills and feel worthy — I am ignoring real sensations. Pain in my neck from hours of reading and bloodshot eyes from typing countless pages. It is all worth it though, because I never needed a strict plan leading to my passion for playing with language. Better yet, I finally started to shrug off that notion of what should be. But it takes time to fully realize these things, so maybe I will truly ‘graduate’ when I am 80.
Catherine Orescan was a Humor Columnist for the 133rd and 134th terms of The Cavalier Daily.