I do what I want.
I say that a lot. In some respects it is definitely true, and everyone who knows me understands that well. But do I really do what I want? It seems more and more like I do not. It is sometimes hard to notice it when a lot of the things I “want” to do are also things I should do: get good grades, go to college, do something with my life. But to what extent do I actually want to do these things? Is my want just a product of perceived necessity?
I have (almost) always paid attention in school, even when I was bored with the material. I work hard, even when my job does not require nor incentivize it. I get good grades and am usually near the top of every class even though I could get by on much less. I take on additional responsibility despite an already overflowing schedule. These are all things I should do. But do I really want them?
In a year I will be graduating college. I will be 22 years old with no family to support and no pressing need for a job. Volunteer organizations and alternative programs like AmeriCorps provide thousands of ways I put off entering the workforce or furthering my education. But in many ways these opportunities are “fallbacks.” With fellowships like the Fulbright and Marshall I could shoot for the moon and get fully funded to study abroad and perform research at an institution of my choice. Yet I really don’t like research. I want hands-on experience. I dream of traveling the world, meeting tons of people, and leaving mainstream American life behind for a while. I want to learn what no books can teach and live like no normal job could permit.
If I forsake this opportunity to do something different will I become wrapped up in my career and never return to these dreams? Will I one day look back in sadness at opportunities forgone? I feel like most of my life I have always done what I should do, sometimes at the expense of what I want to do. I’m not sure I even know how to change…