Cue every parent's worst nightmare: the renegade daughter, tainted by the bacchanal values of a liberal education, declares triumphantly that she has not only switched her major for the second time in college, but she also has a tattoo. Horror! Mother faints in dismay, father growls in disapproval, and the world shakes their heads at another lost soul.
My situation wasn't quite like that.
I went into my second semester of sophomore year with a stellar GPA, tons of extracurricular activities, and a great position in a research lab. A tour guide, an honors student, a TA, and an employee at a local tech start-up, I strode through life with confidence and my head held high, eliciting murmurs of "that girl has it all together." With 23 credits on my schedule and my sights set on a prestigious summer research internship, there was nothing that could stop me. Responsibilities and obligations piled on, and I accepted them all.
In reality, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Like so many college students, I felt the overwhelming pressure to know exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life, and I tried desperately to convince other I had my goals figured out. So I powered though the semester, but by spring break things were falling apart. I was almost failing my first major-specific class, not sleeping, alienated from my friends, and dealing with several people who were mad at me for canceling plans or not meeting deadlines.
"In reality, I had no idea what I wanted to do."
Like so many other chronic over-doers before me, something had to give. I stopped the frantic running around of everyday college life, and took a long hard look at the way I was behaving as a human being. Was I really doing what made me happy? Why was everything seemingly falling apart, and what did I need to do to fix it?
I truly believe that one of the greatest obstacles facing my generation is the constant search for meaning and authenticity. We, unlike any of our ancestors, have the freedom to pursue whatever career we want. Instead of being born as the son of a carpenter and knowing that you would also be a carpenter forever, we are faced with a labyrinthine network of all our possible futures. Gazing into the future shows us visions of us as a business person, or a scientist; a newscaster or a professional athlete.
"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet." - Sylvia Plath.
We are paralyzed in the choosing because we are afraid to commit ourselves; once started down the path to our future it seems as if we are married to it forever. Yet, I have come to realize that this is not so.
"We are paralyzed in the choosing because we are afraid to commit ourselves; once started down the path to our future it seems as if we are married to it forever."
Life is not a linear path to success or failure; it is an ever-crossing network of opportunities. The only constant that drives us towards greater achievement is our ability to hustle, to gather ourselves together and push towards a better future for ourselves and the world around us.
After a semester of struggle, I finally started to see that I could create a new path for myself. Changing my major was my way off throwing off the weight of the fig tree and resolutely determining to face life with only the resolution to live an authentic life and the ability to hustle.
So when I came home with this tattoo, I did not feel like a delinquent daughter. I felt victorious, prepared to go forth and live an exceptional life.