“This I Believe” | Jamie Jacquart, Assistant Director of Campus Sustainability, 2017
When I was growing up, adults liked to ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I understood that my identity was going to be defined by my job, and that I’d better have an answer. At around 8 I declared “I’m going to be a pilot” which was an answer, and ultimately the thing I left home to study in college. The problem was that once I got my pilot license I figured out this wasn’t what suited my skills, gifts and abilities.
I spent about 2 months bouncing off of walls, meeting with faculty and staff and did some major soul searching. What I learned was foundational in shaping how I would view both myself and my career opportunities from that point forward. It’s OK to not know, but you have to do something in order to figure it out.
First of all, it’s important to know that this is completely normal to either not know, change your mind, or start something and find out that it was not what you thought. I know someone who changed her mind about teaching after her last semester while doing her student teaching. Another friend just finished a master’s degree in counseling only to change over to become a financial counselor. Yet another completed in PhD in an obscure discipline, yet chose to take another path because he learned that what he would be doing with that degree was precisely the thing that he liked doing the least.
Having said this, there are people in life who just know. They know who they are and what they were cut out to do and to be in this world. It doesn’t make them better than the rest of us, just that they knew who they were earlier. By contrast, I know many people who are in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and are still waiting to find their calling.
It’s inconceivable to ask someone who is 18 years old to fully understand what they are good at, what they are passionate about, or how life will change and evolve and present new opportunities. You don’t know what you don’t know, but experience and education will give you clues and insights. You do need to listen to yourself, be honest about your skills, gifts and abilities, but also your limitations, triggers and areas of disinterest.
It’s OK to not know or change your mind. It’s OK to explore possibilities; as a matter of fact, it’s kind of the whole point of this. We’re educating you to provide you with tools that allow you to adapt to ever changing circumstances, to learn fields of study not yet created and understand problems not yet revealed. In the movie “Hidden Figures” the mathematicians needed to figure out how to get a rocket back into earth’s atmosphere, as that had never been done before. We are constantly learning, adapting, shifting and expanding.
I encourage you to be a student, a learner, a sponge, a connector, a quizzical being trying to understand how things work and how we can make our world a better place for people, animals and our environment. I believe in the power of not knowing, but we also have to dedicate ourselves to doing things to figure it out. That is what is going to distinguish those who languish in unhappiness and those who flourish.