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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…