Student Diary: Who Am I, Really?

This week's Student Diary discusses finding yourself and fear of the unknown - Managing Editor / Tara Lonsdorf

No one prepares you for adulthood or the oddity that is growing up. There is no course, no rulebook or guide. You don’t ask for it to happen or know exactly how it got here when it arrives, but you just go with it. Because what other choice do you have, really? By the age of 18, you’re being pushed through college’s double doors, declaring a label that you’d like to formally pursue for, well, the rest of your life. One that you chose before the age of 20.

The more I thought about it, the crazier it sounded. Who am I, really? The question lingered through the summer of my high school graduation, into my freshman year of college and has followed me, still, into my junior year. I’ve got my major, my minor and my friends. I’m involved, and I keep up with my grades. I’ve got the complete checklist of a student who should know where they’re going and what they want. But I don’t, and this is why:

I had many preconceptions of college, before ever stepping foot on a campus. I saw it as a place where you simply fell in line—where you were given a list of “this or thats” that you used to set up the rest of your life. I saw it as a place that wasn’t a privilege but a burden.

What scared me more than anything was the unescapable reality that I might choose from this weighty list of labels and I might hate it. I might be terrible at it. I might fail. And the thought of failure was so debilitating, that I refused to let myself try.

I switched from major to major for two years. Why? I couldn’t quite tell you. Maybe it was the thought that I should just know that it’s right—that I should know how to do it all, do it right and never fail. And switching around never let me be bad at anything, because I never gave myself the time or the fair chance to be. I took class after class for each major until the permanency of it, or rather, my insecurity with its permanency, prompted me to move on—to try something else.

I stuck with my major in journalism during the spring of my sophomore year, and I thought that this—sticking with something that I had convinced myself I had a firm grasp on—would alleviate the fear of the unknown. I knew how to write; I’d written for years. I liked the certainty of it—what I perceived to be a slim possibility of failure.

And then, I failed.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t know what it meant to be a journalist. I didn’t understand the weight of being in a room full of individuals, pursuing the exact same career as you—and often with greater experience—when I had always been the only writer in the room. I hated that this, too, was uncertain.

I had to learn, ask for help and miss the mark on more than one occasion. But the hardest part of it all was realizing that I have to fail. If I’m not failing, at least once, then I know that I’m not trying. I know that I’m not facing my fear of the unfamiliar; I know that I’m staying right where I always have—where it’s comfortable.

College is a privilege. It’s terrifying and amazing. Stressful, but rewarding. And you, like I did, may have the perfect checklist of a student who should know who they are. And if you don’t, you aren’t flawed. You haven’t failed. You’re a college student—someone who, since they were 18 years old, has been trying to decide what the rest of your life is supposed to look like when you’re still figuring out right now.  

Comfort is addictive. A life of comfort will always suffocate growth, because where you are comfortable, you don’t have to try, learn or fail. You don’t have to dream. A life of comfort silences every ounce of motivation within you, every push for something more—for something greater.

You may not have a clear picture of what you want or what you’re capable of, but you will, undoubtedly, silence the infinite realm of possibilities by refusing to find opportunity in the unknown.

So, for those of us who don’t quite know who we are or where we’re going—do something uncomfortable today.

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