An Open Letter to the College Student Who Doesn’t Know Where They’re Going

Max Gasner


Dear <student>,

This letter is for you: the student who pretends they know where they’re going but have no idea. I know it’s hard to see everyone appear to have their life sorted out. Some of them may, but many of them are just as lost as you. I’ve spent years trying to answer the question: “what am I going to do with my life?” I’ve wanted to be everything from an audio engineer to a psychiatrist. I wanted hope. I wanted a dream. I wanted a goal to chase. I’ve always said, “If I don’t have a goal to guide me, then how do I know where I’m going?” However, half of being a college student is the act of not knowing. If you think you know everything, then why did you come to college? You came to college because you accepted your ignorance and relinquished control to something bigger than yourself. Something that would give you the skills to grapple with the countless challenges this world presents.

All throughout my college career, I’ve been asked the incessant questions revolving around what courses I chose, what major I settled on, or what I’m going to do with my degree. Every time, I always have a response; some neat little box to stick myself into so I can seal the top from further possibilities and hand myself over, clad in existential gift wrap. I’ve pretended to have a strategy, a goal, or a general direction. But I now realize that I never really knew, and that’s okay. Sadly, I fooled myself more than anyone else. I came to college to learn, but as I prepare to leave, I’ve never been more lost. It’s easy to get swept up by the fairytale futures that your peers spew from a backpack-soapbox, but their path is not yours, and their journey will lead you nowhere.

One of my bosses once told me, “You can’t go around measuring everyone by your standards. Your standards are built for you. If you try to measure someone by them, then they will always fail because their scale is based on different criteria.” The same goes for the opposite. Please don’t make that mistake. You can’t weigh yourself by the measure of others’ success, as you can only achieve success in your own paradigm. Do not let others be your measure. I promise you; if it’s not your war, then you’ll lose every battle.

I know there’s so much pressure in these make-it-or-break-it years that many of us genuinely believe our college-decisions define our adult-futures. The thought of how my choices will affect my future has been the scariest thought of all, the “wrong” choices, the “right” choices, and the life that exists between them. In reality, no one of us can build a bulletproof plan. There is no right answer. Things happen, life happens, but it’s never too late to do something new. You have to make a choice and take the chance if you want things in life to change.

Although, sometimes we get so wrapped up in all the choices that we forget to live. From one student to another, it’s okay. You don’t have to plan your entire life, right this second. Accept the phrase, “I don’t know,” in its simplistic splendor. Embrace the unknown. Opportunity will come when you least expect and in ways you could never imagine. Somewhere between the highs and lows, life will surprise you. Along the way, try to find happiness in yourself, before you look for it in others. After all, you only have one life to live, and at the end of the day, the only one you truly have to live with is yourself.



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