Graduating college or discussing the trials and tribulations of senior year aren’t things  I figured I’d be thinking about as a sophomore, mostly because I don’t have enough credit hours or life experience completed yet.

But, after one striking conversation, here we are.

One of my friends is graduating in the spring. He’s intelligent, well-versed in multiple subjects and a natural leader. He could probably do whatever he wants with his life. And recently I told him all of those things.

His response surprised me, saying he would trade a lot of his intelligence to find something that he was passionate about.

I sat with that for a moment.

College is considered this ticket to our futures, a yellow brick road of growth as a student, a leader and a person. (Those words, or some version of them, probably grace the website of every college in the country.) For many of us, it’s one of the main reasons we chose to come to Miami in the first place: To live in a place that nurtures current interests and exposes us to new ones.

But what happens when, after four years of classes and experiences, you haven’t found that one particular thing you’re passionate about? Maybe you’ve found multiple areas you enjoy, through a club or a class, but it doesn’t lend itself to a successful six-figure career and therefore  it’s deemed impractical.

I can’t imagine it’s only college seniors who feel this way. It’s a common desire to want to know where you’re going and how to get there, particularly in today’s ever-competitive job market and working world.

Think about it. From middle school onward, all of us have been asked at one time or another, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

That question still freaks me out sometimes. I wish I had enough clarity to give a two-word answer and move on, but I don’t.

I remember sitting next to a girl in seventh-grade English class and discussing this very topic. Without hesitation, she told me she wanted to be an engineer. She’s now a sophomore at the University of Illinois and she retains the same, though perhaps more informed, passion for engineering as she did as a 12-year-old in braces and glasses.

This isn’t the case for everyone, and that can prove both stressful and anxiety-invoking.

I, unlike my engineer friend, had at least 10 ideas of what I wanted to do, but wasn’t especially thrilled about any of them. In elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher. In high school, an oncologist or pediatrician. That fleeting dream ended quickly when I dissected a frog in biology class and could hardly stand to look at it. I applied to Miami as an education major. Now, I’m studying psychology and journalism. But when people ask what my dream job is, I still don’t know.

John Hughes captured this situation, or perhaps a slightly more extreme version of it, in “Ferris Bueller.” It’s right after Ferris channels his inner John Lennon on the parade float and Cameron and Sloane stroll the Chicago streets, discussing college and their futures. Cameron feels a bit aimless, lacking the passion that every adult promises leads to a fulfilling career.

Of course, that’s just a movie and those kids are in high school, but this internal conflict exists within  many college kids. Cameron fears living just like his parents, working jobs where each day mirrors the other, framed beautifully, if endlessly, against a city skyline.

I’d guess the same fear still worries real-life students today, but it doesn’t have to. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people hold about 12 different jobs between the  ages of 18-50, meaning that the days of working for one company for 30 years are largely behind us.

In today’s day and age, particularly at Miami, students sculpt well-rounded resumes with double-majors and minors galore. Department crossovers allow business majors to minor in French and art majors to double-major in strategic communication. The road to a successful career appears to be different for everyone, and with our wide skill sets, I doubt any one of us will find ourselves confined to a single career, or stuck in a job we don’t enjoy.

Finding passion for our purpose in life doesn’t hinge itself upon a time clock or a single interest, so let’s stop telling ourselves it does.

dattilec@miamioh.edu

 

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