It's a commonly known stereotype that when an Indian child is born, the two career paths that are offered include medicine for a baby girl or engineering for a baby boy. Over time, it's become a joke that we as a cultural community, along with other ethnicities, have whole-heartedly accepted while choosing to ignore the grain of truth that exists within the laughter. And yet, many of us do tend to follow these paths. Growing up, I found that many of my friends chose the route to medical school or engineering degrees. The other, less common options included business inclinations or law school.
Everything was centered around building a comfortable, safe future where the money would flow in and you would want for nothing. In essence, money did buy happiness, or at least the means to it. All other career paths were looked at with either a hesitant shrug coupled with a lecture on why something was better, or were completely dismissed altogether. Creativity was appreciated, but molding it into a line of work was discouraged.
All my life, I wanted to defy the stereotype. Med school was unappealing and engineering brought a sharp distaste to my tongue. Business was never my forte and when my parents finally settled on convincing me to go to law school, their insistence was my sole reason to dismiss the idea altogether. I knew I didn't want to work with math or science for the rest of my life. My passions were English and History. I wanted to learn languages and understand why people work. I was fascinated by gray areas and the individuals who colored them in. My dream was to write. I want(ed) to sit in a room and dip my pen into my arteries and write colorful stories about the universe. But that wasn't logical, and it took me a long time to understand why. I ended up turning full circle and accepted law school and with that, I stepped into college with a road map that laid out which twists to avoid and which turns to take. I was resolute in my ambition and I felt that nothing could change my mind.
Six months later, I ended up changing my mind.
I still remember the sinking realization that I didn't want to go to law school anymore. I hurriedly called my father and rushed to explain the situation in tears, seeking advice on how to handle my road map tearing itself into shreds. I knew I loved learning about the world and writing about it but I also wanted to be out in it, talking to people and not fighting court cases all day. I could not find an option that combined all of my passions together: philosophy, history, language, English, and psychology. I wanted to connect with people and make use of my knowledge. Teaching was the only thing that came to mind but I knew on some level that I needed more than that. The problem was, "more" was not a word I could define. That's when my father helped me lower my anxieties and reminded me that I have time to find my road less traveled. He pointed out that I loved what I was studying and at that moment, it was the only thing that mattered. If one year of college was able to destroy the map, it could take another three to reconstruct it. I took a deep breath at his words and realized the truth echoing in every syllable: I don't know what I want to do with my life and that's okay.
They say you will change your major at least twice within your college career. Personally, I have met people who have switched majors between two to 10 times. People who have always firmly believed in a specific dream are susceptible too. In a way, that's the true magic of a university; it allows you to explore areas of studies you have never considered and realize that your dreams are responsive to change. That first moment can be terrifying but it ultimately leads you down a road more suited for the soles of your feet.
Of course, that doesn't alleviate the stress settling into your limbs and those of your parents. My mother is still concerned about my refusal to decide on a career path. It is terrifying for her to imagine a world where I am not swimming against the current, and instead drowning in its depths. But while I console her and parrot phrases on how things will turn out for the better, I have come to see that not knowing what path to take is not a crime. While your road map may be torn to shreds or faded due to a downpour of worry, you will still move along a path and find a destination.
The adventure exists within the gravel roads and tumultuous weather. There is a mystery that hangs in the air, pointing you to where you are to go. It is on that road where your strengths and skills will be tested as you navigate through the obstacles placed in your way. By facing your troubles head on, you come to see the true strength of your weapons and which techniques wield them in the sharpest manner. Not knowing how to push forward should never pull you back. The destination exists all the same, but it is with your own merit that you find the will to survive.
This is not a piece criticizing those who have it all figured out. Instead, it is a piece aimed at reassuring those who feel lost. Nobody knows what lies ahead on any path. A road map does not show you potholes and flooded bridges. You can only see as far as your vision allows and it remains your choice whether or not to step forward. In the end, your ambition to become greater than you are drives you towards success. Your insistence on advancing without a direction only shows the bravery that emanates from your soul. Not knowing where to go does not make you a coward; instead, it makes you courageous.