I don’t know what I’m doing with my life

As I glanced up from my math homework, I looked at my math professor. During office hours, my math professor and I had been discussing methods of integration, along with anything else that came to mind. As I fiddled with my pencil, I paused, searching for the right words. I explained to my professor that while I used to know exactly what I wanted to do with my life, I did not anymore.

She raised her eyebrows. “You’re young. You shouldn’t know exactly what you’re doing with your life right now.”

For weeks, I have been afraid of saying that I do not know exactly what I want to do with my life – mostly because in high school, I had my life planned out. After a sophomore year chemistry class, I decided that I liked chemistry. Then and there, chemistry became a part of my future. In addition to the extremely unique dreams of raising two cats, having an apartment in downtown Baltimore, and traveling all over the world, I adamantly wanted to become a chemistry researcher after a single high school chemistry class when I was fifteen. 

Coming to Williams, it took about a solid month for my dreams to change. Reluctantly, I began to realize my lack of interest in chemistry. The material just failed to engross me. In chemistry class, I longed to be interested in the difference between compounds and molecules. On chemistry homework, I wanted to find the beauty in precipitation reactions. In study sessions, I tried to be fascinated with nomenclature. It just wasn’t happening. 

Going through an all-consuming college mid-life crisis, I questioned: why did I use to love chemistry? While sitting in Driscoll and standing in the shower, I went through all the possible reasons. One reason kept coming up though. I tried to imagine the moments in my sophomore year chemistry class where I sat with spellbinding interest in stoichiometry or pure curiosity about electrons or absolute fascination with moles. I could not recall a single moment where chemistry just amazed me. I could quickly recall through the As I received on chemistry tests, how easy it was to memorize the elements and the simplicity of balancing chemical equations. 

In the past few weeks, the obvious dawned on me. I did not like chemistry now because I never liked chemistry. I liked getting good grades. I liked chemistry because I was getting good grades in chemistry. And as I looked back on the past few weeks of my time at Williams, the truth was there. I disliked chemistry because just like all my classes, I struggled to easily grasp the material. If I truly liked chemistry, the struggle would never have mattered.

As I probed deeper, I realized that I could never imagine myself doing chemistry for the sake of chemistry. Whenever I imagined myself doing chemistry, I was doing something with it. I could not see the beauty in chemistry for the sake of itself.

I would love to say that I have learned to love the idea of uncertainty, but that would be a lie. I would love to have a future that is laid out with no obstacles, but that’s impossible. In the last few weeks, I think that I have become slightly comfortable with the idea of not knowing what I want to do with my life. Because I know that if I love something, no matter the struggle, it will be worth it. And this – this one fact will lead me to everything I will ever truly love in life.