Opinion: Follow your dreams more, plan your future a little less

Attitudes toward life after school don’t require the stress and pressure felt by many college students.


Lily Smith

The Old Capitol is seen on Nov. 25, 2018.

Emily Creery, Columnist

In The Big Lebowski, Maude Lebowski asked The Dude what he does for a living. He replied, “Oh, the usual. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.” It’s simple, carefree, and easy to remember.

Like many college students, when I’m asked a similar question about what I plan to do for the rest of my existence, people expect a little more. Honestly, so do I. But after coming back from an internship that changed my life (just months before my senior year) I realized that we can plan our entire lives and never know who we want to be. And you know what, that’s OK.

I don’t say this to be alarming or to suggest that the man crushing his philosophy class doesn’t know exactly where he’ll be in five years, or that the woman who’s president of seven clubs won’t one day be running our country. I’m only suggesting that the pressure on undergraduates to know their sole purpose in life is not only ludicrous and detrimental, but a stigma we bestow onto ourselves until the day we simply say, “screw it.”

That particular epiphany was more of a dramatic, summer-long movie montage for me, but it was the best thing that could have ever happened. I’m a planner. I’m an overachiever. I’m an annoyingly profound thinker who’s always 68 years ahead of the game.

But I could only anticipate so much before I had to let the so-called “real world” take its toll. And you know what? I learned that I didn’t want to live in a big city. I didn’t want to be a professional journalist. And, as heartbreaking as it was, I didn’t want to be Oprah Winfrey.

Is it slightly overwhelming and frustrating to be carving a new path during my final stretch of undergrad? Absolutely. But once I let go of all of the societal expectations, strangers’ opinions, and subconscious barriers I built for myself, I was finally able to breathe and figure out what exactly I wanted to spend my life doing. More importantly, I allowed myself to pursue what would bring me the most joy.

Some people are fortunate enough to pick a major as a senior in high school and graduate college on the same track with job in hand. Others such as myself will graduate with their fifth declared major and then go on for more schooling. There is no right way to live your life, but there most certainly is a wrong way: pursuing a path that doesn’t ignite your passion, or at the very least make you a little giddy.

We live in a society where it’s a faux pas if you even begin to question your ambitions or who you want to be in this great, big world. But is it worse to change course now or to finish a major that you absolutely hate in hopes that the money will be enough incentive to wake up each day? Our purpose as humans is not to live for a paycheck. We are meant to capitalize on our soul-burning interests, exceptional talents, and unique experiences. There is nothing else more important.

Keep looking up and out for yourself. As The Dude said, “This is a very complicated case. A lot of ins, a lot of outs.”

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.