This semester, by far, has been the most taxing semester I have had at Duke to date. But, contrary to what you may be thinking, it’s not because of the rigorous workload. The real reason is because I have no idea what I want to do with my life.
So yes, it’s true: I’m undecided—and pre-med to boot. Yes, I know. I wouldn’t be friends with me either.
As a sophomore, this is my last full semester before I have to begin facing the harsh realities of the world we live in and taking responsibility for my actions. Up to this point, I have been extremely lucky: I’m not personally handling my college finances at present, nor am I even pressured to work a job. Unlike many other students, I don’t have these struggles. But, one day soon, that time will come. There is a major choice that I need to make. Literally.
Duke hasn’t failed in bringing me an unforgettable academic experience these last few semesters. But anytime I do a problem set or write a paper, the question arises: “Why?” I don’t mean to say that my classes have been without purpose, but it’s hard to contextualize my college experience for the future until I actually have an idea of what that future contains. I have always been told the polar opposite—that a liberal arts education will, in fact, contextualize what you do with the world around you—and I don’t deny that. It’s just that, at the moment, I can’t see it that way.
Lately, it feels like I hardly have any room to breathe at all. As hard as pre-med courses are for me already, trying to decide if it’s the path for me has been a consistent struggle. Attempting to reconcile my love for science amidst the competition inherent in the course load and the rigor of the classes is incredibly conflicting. In either case, I decided that the only way to make this decision in a timely manner was to overload, and it feels like I’m spreading myself too thin. As sadistic as it sounds, I believe that if I stress myself out to the utmost level, I’ll have a better idea of what gets me up in the morning—of what makes me feel the sense of fulfillment I’ve always sought.
But I can never seem to catch a break. Last week, as the deadline for my computer science problem set neared, I felt a wave of uneasiness wash over me. After nearly 20 hours of work, I hadn’t completed the task at hand. But what upset me most wasn’t the fact that I failed. I hadn’t had the time to invest into something I found myself actually enjoying, and that was the most painful feeling of all.
I envy those that have their minds made up. It almost feels like some students here had their minds made up before they were expelled from the womb, and here I am investing thousands of dollars and hours of study just to make up my mind. You can only play the pre-med card for so long—at the end of the day, it doesn’t count as a major. And unless I can get a degree in Super Smash Brothers, I have to make up my mind soon.
To tell the truth, with each passing semester, I believe I’m taking small steps to finally find the answer. The uncertainty of the situation is unnerving, and a choice that is so easy to make could not be any harder. It’s strange to think about it, but the decision I make could have implications I could never dream of knowing. If I can’t even comprehend basic chemistry, how am I supposed to understand the magnitude of that decision? The more I think about it, the harder it becomes.
At this point in my academic career, there is but one thing I’m certain about: I don’t want to be a failure. Even just entertaining the possibility in my head troubles me. And while the government may shut down, I don’t plan on doing so anytime soon. I hope that, if I put as much confidence in Duke as it has in me, my limits will know no bounds.
Bryan Somaiah is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs every other Thursday. Send Bryan a message on Twitter @BSomaiahChron.