Today’s the day my life begins. Today I become a citizen of the world. Today I become a grown up. Today I become accountable to someone other than myself and my parents. Accountable for more than my grades. Today, I become accountable to the world. To the future. To all the possibilities that life has to offer. Starting today, my job is to show up wide-eyed and willing and ready. For what, I don’t know. For anything. For everything. To take on life. To take on love. To take on the responsibility and possibility. Today, my friends, our lives begin. And, I for one can’t wait.
Two years ago, around the time I was applying for colleges, I saw this episode of Grey’s Anatomy and heard this speech. And as a student who was just about to graduate high school, was waiting for college decisions and was just not perceiving that the change that was about to happen in her life, I related with this speech perfectly. And I still do. Because I think Becca knew what she was saying.
When I started getting my admissions decisions in April 2011 from colleges all over the U.S., I got rejected from seven out of ten places. Yes, seven. And the basis of all those rejections was that my “financial aid need could not be fulfilled.” Therefore, by the time Mount Holyoke’s decision rolled around, I was not really expecting a lot. But seeing that I was admitted with good financial aid status, I was left ecstatic, happy, sad, and just a rollercoaster of emotions.
I started getting excited about the campus, about living in a dorm, about classes, about the professors and so on. However, what I did not see at that time as a naïve 18 year old, was that college did not just entail all those exciting things. There was so much more that I did not see at the time: internships, jobs, resumes, cover letters, and hourly wages being some of the few.
I doubt anyone thinks about college as stepping into the real world (well, pseudo-real. The real-real happens after graduation, of course), but there is so much you get thrown into that goes beyond grades and actually teaches you about yourself and your place in the world. I am not trying to scare anyone with this blog of mine. Not at all. I love my college and I love the way it is making me grow. And I am sure all of you prospective freshmen out there will too. But you can never imagine the way it makes you change.
Let me give you an example.
I came to Mount Holyoke thinking that I want to do a double major in Film Studies and International Relations with a minor in Journalism. And I was pretty bent on that. Thus, when the enrollment for classes opened and I did not get into the Intro to Film class because it filled up too quickly … I cried. Yes, I literally cried. I told my mom that I would never be able to do my major properly because I was not starting off with the class I wanted. College was all about pursuing what you loved, I said. And I was not getting that in my very first semester.
Fast forward to Fall 2012. After I came back from summer break, things had changed. How? I was looking to do an Economics major now. Film Studies, the major I had shed tears over was out of the question. Why? Because I was trying to be practical. Because I was thinking about the future after graduation and jobs. Economics is a major that will always get you a job and college is not about pursuing what you love. It is about pursuing what will get you a job and money in the long run. And what you love and the thing that gets you the bright future are never the same thing, I decided.
How did this change come about? By the time I reached Pakistan for my summer break, I had already had an epiphany about how the next summer I needed to stay in America and get some real work experience there. Because the more you build your resume, the better your chances are for the future. And how could I possibly build my resume with Film Studies? So Economics, it was.
Now fast forward again to just six months later. Spring 2013. I just declared my major a few days ago. And you may have guessed by now that it is not Economics and International Relations. It is Journalism and Film Studies with a minor in International Relations (trust me, I can see you all smiling and laughing and smirking at this). And it does not end here. I am designing my own major in Journalism and Film Studies. AND (yes, there is more) I am also graduating a semester early.
Why did I decide to switch back after convincing myself Economics would be the smarter option? Because, in simple words, I don’t like Economics. I can study it for a while but I discovered doing a whole major on it is not my cup of tea. And you know how in high school you have no other choice but to study subjects which you don’t like? In college, you can focus on what you love. No matter how “impractical” it is.
Because once you come to college you realize that nothing is impractical. There is a world out there for every profession, and college teaches you just that.
So now do you see how fast things change when you are in college? Six months is all it took for this huge change to come about. Just over a span of three semesters, haven’t I transitioned a lot? And despite these transitions, I am called (no boasting intended), one of the more sorted out students around. So just think about the back and forth other college students make.
By narrating this story of transitions to you all, I am just trying to get one point across: don’t come to college with a fixed set of ideas. Don’t be sad when some of your ideas don’t work out. And don’t come to college thinking you won’t change. Because you will. You will grow. Into a bigger person, into a better person. You will discover yourself in ways you cannot even imagine right now. You will form a new family, new friendships and these will mean the most to you, maybe even for the rest of your life.
There will be some points when you feel that everything is wrong and bad and not the way you want it. But don’t worry when you don’t get the classes you want. Don’t fix yourself on one idea. Open yourself to the world out there. And you will see the best that there is. Remember what Becca said? Possibilities, future, more than your grades? Yeah, that is pretty much what I am trying to say too.
College is an experience you will cherish for the rest of your life. It is the most important step of your life. Make it worth it.