[For the record, this was only supposed to be about 150 words. I'm a simple man with complex tastes]
I might be really stupid.
I’m not even sure I can rationalize this at 2 a.m.
I’m sitting in my apartment as college senior doing exactly what everybody else is not doing: nothing. Most college students will walk out of Linfield with a plan and a degree in something the world respects, while I’m gonna be dragging my feet and muttering something about intangibles.
Truth is, I haven’t quite made up my mind what I’m doing yet.
College was for me a very natural choice planned from the beginning in the same way high school was. I’m here because I didn’t really have any other choice. With expectations comes success, and with success comes more expectations. Nobody hoped I would be here; it was assumed. I couldn’t suddenly decide I wanted to move to Texas and wrangle cows. Or become a bus driver. Those jobs would be below my life ceiling. I would be missing out on something “greater”. I’ve been trapped in the cycle of the American dream my entire life, one of money and happiness and prestige and oh so many expectations.
Be the best to become the best.
So from the beginning it’s been school school school. Need to reach that peak, hit that ceiling, conquer that mountain. Phase one was filled with preparation for phase two, college, where I began to prepare for the career and family phases. It’s a rigid system that’s been rammed into my head since the beginning, a thirty year plan aimed at fulfilling one’s own soul.
What they don’t tell you is that failure can push you forward just as strongly as success can. I wouldn’t have burst into flame if I’d dropped out of college or rejected that job offer. I won’t suddenly lose all chance at happiness if I ignore the plan I’ve been following for years and years. It took me a long time to realize just how stuck within the system I was, so afraid I might not be all I can be. Turns out it was me trying to be all they think I can be. And that’s just not the only way. I think I’d rather just jump off this train and walk to happiness.
So I’m not going to make a plan for after college. I’m going to take everything I’ve learned and see where it takes me. And I’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that I carried myself there, which is way more important to me than being pushed into being something I never felt I had a choice about. I believe my happiness should never be contingent on somebody else’s expectations.
A lot of Americans would call that really stupid.
Matt Olson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.