Student Existentialism: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
The confusion that comes with having a whole future ahead of you and how to (try) and deal with it.
University. A time for exploration, adventure, new friendships and self discovery. It is often romanticized as what will be, "The best years of your life" but the lived experience seems to be one filled with more questions than anyone ever anticipated.
The more I speak to students the more I realize that many people have no real idea of what they want to do after they attain their degrees. A substantial amount of students aren't even sure that the degree they are working hard for is the one that they want. Generally, this leaves a large portion of the university student body confused, disillusioned and discontent. While this is a disheartening truth, the point of this article is far from being all doom and gloom.
Having an existential nagging at the back of your mind (existential here being questions about one's purpose), is not an easy way to live, I know because for most of my first year in university I was very unhappy with what I was doing and plagued by confusion about what I would become. I found myself in constant uncertainty about my future, and it's hard to do your best when you're not certain about what you're pouring yourself into. This is a common feeling, the truth is that even people who have always wanted to be doctors sometimes have moments when they question themselves.
What is the solution out of this morbid confusion then? The truth is I don't really have a solution. My biggest advice is usually centered around either doing what is best for yourself or slowing down, both of which I will explain. Doing what is best for yourself might lead to a lot more questions, but I believe that if you answer those questions honestly to yourself, you'll figure out what the best option is (for you); drop out, change courses, take a break, study part-time, whatever option would suit you as an individual best. I would like to emphasize here that although it's okay to ask people who may know you well for advice (parents, friends), asking for advice is very different from letting other people make your decisions for you. While the idea of making such a decision may be daunting, you are the only one that really knows yourself the best.
The second option, which is essentially the route I chose, is slowing down. What I mean by this is that the media and society in general seems to be pushing this idea of having everything sorted out (good paying job, fancy apartment, fancy car and groomed pets) by the age of 25. We see it everywhere, young celebrities living "the life", 20-something influencers travelling and buying big, and it appears that this has started becoming a tape by which everyone wants to measure themselves and their victories. The truth, however, is that while this happens for a lucky few it is not the norm. This is not to say that you can't achieve all of your dreams by 25, this is to say that you don't HAVE to.
So as a 19 year old, I was panicking about my future and what to do with myself, when the truth is that the degree I am currently halfway through is a great degree that is providing me with ample knowledge and when I graduate at 21, I will have more than enough time to come back and bag another one. Essentially, what I am trying to say is that while the issue of an unclear future is a serious one, and the feelings that accompany said burden are completely valid, sometimes one has to step out of oneself and find some speck of beauty in the chaos, come up with a realistic plan and then try one's best to get through their plan with their sanity intact.
I know that we won't all live to be 100, but existential dread can't last forever. Sometimes your purpose comes to you when you aren't looking, sometimes you go out and find it, and sometimes it's always been there, you just need to (once again) answer the questions you ask yourself in full candor. I would like to take a moment to remind you that success is not the same for everyone. Small successes are just as important as the major ones, and just because the whole world isn't looking doesn't mean what you are doing isn't noteworthy.
University is hard, but it doesn't have to be the worst time of your life. Contrary to popular parental belief, there is much more than academics. There are people you will still meet, dance floors you'll still grace with your two left feet and doors waiting to open at the sound of your name. It is impossible to have everything figured out at all times, but it's possible to always make the most of every situation you may find yourself in, whether it is planned or unplanned. Lastly, stay true to yourself, for yourself. You'll thank yourself someday.
© 2019 Dintho-Tsohle K