Rachel Chen, Featured Columnist

The summer before my sister’s junior year, I cried because I knew there were only two years before she left for college and a whole chapter of my life would end. As my junior year comes to a close, my own future looms closer each and every day. I often wonder what will become of me, what my life will evolve into and what will become of the friends and family I leave behind.

To be completely honest, I have no clue what I will do with my life. In the past I have wanted to be a ballerina, a missionary, a fashion designer, a musician, an author, a journalist and a traveler. However, none of it stands anymore. The idealism of my younger years is fading away as the lines between my dreams and reality have blurred.

I am completely lost.

With all my heart, I hope to travel the world and see everything there is to see. Almost more than that, I hope for my voice to be heard. Like the stereotypical young person about to enter the real world, I hope to change the world. When I was little my dream was to win a Nobel Peace Prize and I thought about world peace a lot. When I got a older, I decided world peace was impossible and hoped instead that one day I would win a Pulitzer Prize for my writing. After a while even that seemed ridiculous, so I hoped to win a Newberry Award one day for writing a children’s novel instead. Each year, I have dreamed progressively smaller and smaller.

Now, as university becomes increasingly imminent, I am struggling with a contradiction. I long to dream about all the schools I will apply to, all the places I will see and all the things I will one day achieve, but something holds me back.

Fear tells me I will get stuck at a state school or at my sister’s college. There is nothing wrong with these schools, but to me they represent stagnancy, and all I want is change – even if it is just a change of scenery. I am restless and I am afraid of being pulled into the normalcy of attending a regular four-year college, getting a 9-to-5 job and moving into a home not far from where I’m currently living. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, but I want something new, something I cannot name.

When this year ends, I will only have one year left of high school. By summer, I will have begun to work on college applications, visit campuses and start making decisions. I have less than a year to find something that I enjoy, and even worse, to decide which schools to apply to. I will have to choose if I am willing to risk safety in order to dream big again. For passionate people, I’m sure sacrificing dreams for reality is less difficult, but nothing I care about seems tangible at this point.

Nonetheless, the only person standing in my way is myself. If I let go of fear and bring back the confidence I used to
have in all my past dreams, I may not achieve them, but at least someday, when the next chapter of my life begins, I’ll be able to do something. Even if I end up at a school so close to home that it will be like nothing has changed, I know that eventually my life will unfold the way it is supposed to. If I want something enough, I’m going to keep working for it. Even if I don’t end up a ballerina, a missionary, a fashion designer, a musician, an author, a journalist or a traveler, I’m not going to give up on finding my purpose.