When I was eighteen, I did (arguably) a very silly thing. I went to college.
All I really knew of life at that point was school. How could I possibly even come close to taking full advantage of what a university as large as the one I went to (Penn State) had to offer?
Sure, I inevitably got some things out of my four years there. I was exposed to new ideas and people. I had a handful of wonderful professors and matured maybe a smidge. But college (for me) was more or less a holding period before entering the so-called “real world” (where I would do significantly more learning and growing, and at a much more rapid pace).
The opportunities were there for me, as an undergrad, to explore all kinds of interests. I could have, for instance:
• Taken a Basic Film Production class
• Hiked Mt. Nittany
• Auditioned for a play
• Applied to be a columnist for The Daily Collegian (the student-run newspaper)
• Joined (or started) a club
• Joined (or started) a band
• Played an intramural sport
• Studied abroad for a semester (that’s “abroad” – one word)
I was interested in all of these things; I did none of them.
Looking back, I think there is one simple, overarching explanation for this: I didn’t yet have the necessary life skills. I wasn’t ready. Wasn’t personally developed enough. (In defense of my younger self: how many people are at that age?)
Kind of sad, huh?
But here’s the good news. Those interests you had when you were younger, but never pursued? There’s no reason you can’t do so now. You’re older, sure. You have more responsibilities, no doubt. But in almost every way, you’re better equipped now. You know yourself better. You’re not as insecure. You have life experience to bring to the table. You’ve seen a commitment or two through, and know how that’s done.
Though I did none of the things I listed above as an undergrad, I am proud to say that I didn’t bury all of those interests permanently:
• I may not have hiked to the top of Mt. Nittany, but I have hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney.
• I may not have auditioned for a play back then, but I’ve done some community theater since.
• I may not have had my own newspaper column, but I now have this blog.
• I may not have joined any clubs, but I’ve since joined – and had rich, rewarding experiences with – the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Sierra Club.
• I may not have played an intramural sport, but I did take a volleyball class through an adult education program.
• I may not have studied abroad, but I’ve since traveled to other countries.
And it’s still not too late for me to do some version of any of a host of other things I was once interested in, should I still wish to.
Maybe…one day…I’ll even get around to…choosing a major. 🙂