Let’s Talk About Expectations

I had certain expectations when it came to graduation and university. I expected to be on the honor roll, get into my community college B.Sc degree, transfer to the University of Alberta to complete it, and then transition into their medical school to become a doctor. Cut and dry, right? I was convinced, at 17, that without a doubt I wanted that path and that career. I job shadowed a doctor and volunteered at the hospital, took all my sciences in high school, and joined a science and engineering student club in my first year of post-secondary. All the planning for this idea that I was so sure of, you can imagine how illogical it felt to suddenly exit off the science route and turn towards a completely different faculty. 

I was about halfway through my second year when I changed my mind about the career I had picked out for myself, and almost all the way finished it when I decided to change faculties too. My second year was also my first year away from home and living as an independent adult. I knew this fact was going to have an impact when I moved, but I didn’t expect to meet an entirely different side of myself that was free to be curious about things without feeling the expectations of my family weighing in. I realized I wanted what I wanted for small, objective, and prideful reasons, and that the passion I felt about other fields should be acknowledged and explored. When I started to get more serious about life after school and focusing on career prospects and salaries, I pushed away my arts-based interests and put more focus into science. While I’m grateful for the incredible amount that I was able to learn and accomplish in that faculty, I’m disappointed in myself for allowing societal perceptions about education and career choices to have an impact on my decision making. More importantly, I regret the expectations that I had for myself, namely that I should have been able to figure out what direction I wanted to go in right away. 

The way we are herded to the college gates creates enormous pressure to decide what you want before you’ve even experienced any post-secondary schooling. Everyone says you have your first year to take general classes before you land on a major and that’s true, but you still need to choose a program and faculty and have a general plan for yourself so you can be prepared for application deadlines and prerequisites. If you have time and money to spare this may feel different for you, but most students have limited funds to spend on tuition and are eager to get out of school and get working. It’s this fact that’s had me twisted with anxiety due to feeling like I wasted three years of money and time and could have potentially only wasted one if I had taken more time to think about what I really wanted and what my options were. I’m now moving in a direction that feels like a healthy balance between passion and practicality since I’ve started to focus on my personal wants rather than my personal or societal duty. When all that extra outside noise falls away at the end of the day, it’s just going to be you and your decisions. Will you feel like you are where you were meant to be, or wearing someone else’s occupational skin? Let everyone else’s expectations be quiet because there’s nothing wrong with prioritizing interest over income. I let my creative writing skills become neglected despite my passion for it because I didn’t think it had much use to me the older I became. Now, turning my interest towards a journalism degree and contributing to the HerCampus community, I wish I would have stuck with and practiced that skill that was once so important to me, but better late than never. Regardless, it’s time to move away from feeling embarrassed about the lack of linearity in our post-secondary paths and accept instead that sometimes you need to try things you don’t like before you find- or remember- the things you do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Screw expectations, put your faith in yourself, and your feet will take you in the right direction. 

(At least that’s what I’m hoping… I’ll let you know if it works out).