Gigi McGaughey
September 03, 2015 7:00 am

From practically the day I was born I have been told to “do what you love” and “follow your dreams” on a regular basis by relatives, teachers, and other general authority figures. I know their intention is to be kind and inspirational, and I appreciate every one of them, but for a long time I didn’t know what I loved to do or what my dreams were. Even now, 16 years into life and about to go off to college, I’m still trying to figure it out for myself. What I’ve found so far is that this type of thinking is a very big part of Becoming An Adult, and there are ways to cope.

Growing up, my career choice changed with the seasons. I wanted to be everything from a cheerleading coach to an author to a pediatrician. Even now, as I am narrowing my options, I feel indecisive and confused because this is such a big choice; I’m choosing what to do with the majority of my future. These feelings are nearly universal among young adults, and many feel overwhelmed with the idea of committing to one field for the rest of their lives. During this time, it is easy to feel trapped and scared of the impact of making a firm choice.

My personal way of coping with this pressure has been to create a solid and diverse foundation of classes and hobbies. It’s a great fallback plan and also proves my tenacity to colleges and potential employers. While everyone has different needs and aspirations, mine consists of rigorous courses, sports, several clubs, volunteer work, and a (relatively) regular social life. I know, I sound like your classic overachiever, the kind of person who, from the outside, probably seems to have everything figured out. But the truth is, I’m still working on it. In the meantime, I’ve tried to let go of potential costs and benefits and find something I truly love to do. I know it sounds cheesy, but if I didn’t stop worrying for a second over the cost and time commitment of medical school, I would have never even considered how much I would love to help people get better as a career.

When people ask me how I manage to do all that I do, I’m often unsure of how to respond. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt a strong pressure to succeed, especially academically. Whether this was taught and learned, innate, or a combination, I am unsure, but I’ve been this way my entire life. As I approach graduation and The Rest of My Life, its intensity has (predictably) increased and I have found myself with quite the full plate of commitments and challenging classes.

While I do feel immense pressure to succeed and thrive in my endeavors, I can’t deny that I love what I do. I love taking on lots of tough classes and getting involved with an array of clubs. I’m passionate about so many things that it’s hard to pick just one to pursue for the rest of my life, but building this foundation for myself has presented benefits and opportunities in more ways than I could imagine. I am the kind of person with an insatiable desire for knowledge and a need to flourish, and I am in no business of denying who I am to the world.

While most are supportive, a number of people I come across tell me I’m growing up too quickly and that I should take this time to just be a kid and not worry about what the future holds. I appreciate the kind words, but some people don’t understand that no one is making me do this. I like focusing on my future. It’s a nice feeling to know I’m in control and I’m doing all I can to keep myself on the right path. Plus, it makes for some interesting conversation and networking opportunities!

The future of a young adult is both the most exciting and terrifying thing in their lives. My working hard now to achieve long-term goals is my choice, and I’ve made it because I want to do all I can to lessen the scary part of growing up. Call me a kid looking to rush through her youth if you want, but that won’t change my need to stop waiting on others and start making things happen for myself.

(Image via iStock.)

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