Leilani Baylis-Washington/Daily

Stop. I know what you’re probably thinking. A guide to figuring out what you wanna do with your life. Pretty clickbait-y, huh? You probably clicked the link to this piece after reading the title thinking it would give you some sort of clarity, right? At this point you’re realizing I’m a 19-year-old college student (because I’m telling you I am) and that I probably won’t give you any clarity at all. And now, you’re probably frustrated because after all, what do I know? I’ll be honest, I’m writing this piece as a means of reflection. 

A few days ago, I took it upon myself to pull up the document that stored the essays that I applied to college with. As I read them, I noticed two things: 1) How bad of a writer I was back then, and 2) how confident I was in articulating to the readers that I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Let me give you an example: 

I want to be a lot of different things when I “grow up.” I want to be a lawyer, baker, business owner, advocate, active community member and so much more. Very early on in my academic career I made two promises to myself. First, whatever I choose to study in university caters to the wide array of my interests. Second, I will actively work to give back to my community through whatever I decide to study. Simple, right? Wrong. I was quickly met with the dilemma of finding the intersection between all my interests, and how to cultivate these interests in a way that supported my educational journey. However, when I discovered the BBA degree through Ross, I was so happy to learn that this degree program is one that gives me the ability to shape my experience into what I want it to be, exactly what I was searching for. 

I can’t help but wonder who I thought I was. In retrospect, it’s almost comical; my fresh-out-of-high-school self thought that she had the entire world figured out. Little did I know then that I knew close to nothing, especially about what I wanted to do with my life. Starting college with this confidence inevitably put me on a track to make decisions that supported it, whether it was the classes I took or the clubs I joined or even the people I surrounded myself with. And while all the things I talked about in my blurb are true, I can’t help but feel like they’re only true because I lucked out – my life could have taken a million different turns when I got to college but just so happened to fall into place the way I expected it to. However, even with these feelings of realization that I am on some type of path in building the life I will ultimately live, I still don’t feel like I have it figured out. What if I was supposed to be a doctor? Or astronaut? Or chef? What if this facade of confidence actually deterred me from finding my true calling? As scary as it is to admit, the further I am on my academic journey, the more I feel these feelings of doubt. 

Thoughts of being stuck with a job I absolutely hate or wishing I took a different path or regretting not pursuing what I thought were my dreams constantly plague me. But the more I experience thoughts like these, the more I realize that in retrospect, I’m not alone. Conversation after conversation with mentor after mentor has often left me more confused than I was before. Most just talk about how everything in their experience had just fallen into place. Whether that was securing a summer internship or full time job, things just worked out. “It’ll all work out” and “there’s no point of stressing, you’ll figure it out” are phrases that have been thrown at me countless times by countless people, but I never seemed to know how to relax and allow that trust to take the wheel the way they did. It was almost like I felt as though not stressing would be what prevented me from figuring out my journey, and worries were the only way to operate. But despite all this, if these conversations left any positive impact on me, it was reassurance that everyone goes through phases in life like these. No one has it figured out, some people are just better at hiding it. 

Teaching myself to actually comprehend the advice I seemed to constantly be getting from those that I was speaking to and not just listening to was an adversity I faced in and of itself. Every time I tried to reiterate these thoughts to myself, I couldn’t help but think of how cliche it all sounded. How could I just let myself sit back and “trust the process?” But digging deep into my roots and finding where my insecurities in my future lied ultimately helped me overcome that hurdle. I realized that the worries I faced were rooted in doubting my abilities, but I forced myself to constantly remind myself that I am capable and have made it so far with those capabilities every time I felt anxious about what was to come. 

Trusting that everything will work out doesn’t mean sitting back and allowing things to come to you, as I once mistakenly equated it to. It means trusting that your abilities will get you where you need to go. I can’t tell you that there was a specific instance that changed my mindset on this, as it consisted of a long process of self reflection, but when I took a step back in reflection and realized that my capabilities have brought me wherever I strived to be, I truly started to believe it.

Maybe my high school self predicted something greater than myself, but figuring out if that confidence will prove to be a blessing or curse is still yet to come. So I try to take every day as it comes. Approaching my days with an open mind is something I’ve always tried to implement, but also being intentional about the way I reflect is something that I’ve realized goes such a long way. Asking myself simple questions like “why did I do what I did today” or “how am I benefitting from this” or “what do I want to walk away from today having learned” helps me find clarity in what seems like a world of chaos, and also helps me to hold myself accountable in being intentional about my day to day actions. All that combined might, just might, help you figure out what you want to do with your life. For all I know it’s helping me. But again after all, what do any of us know?

MiC Columnist Reem Hassan can be reached at reemh@umich.edu.