Ever since we were little, most of us wanted to be something important. Some of us wanted to be firefighters, others wanted to ballerinas. We longed to be something that captured the essence of beauty and heroics. But as we have grown up, our dreams have changed as we experienced new things.
Now, some of my friends want to be surgeons or pediatricians; they want to help the world by saving lives. Others are engineers and want to alter the future of humanity and computers—seeing just how far they can mesh the two in the name of science. And while I may still be living in my childish dreams, I would love more than anything to work in a developing country, helping a community out of poverty.
We all came to Duke chasing our dreams and passions, knowing that these were the things that gave us a sense of purpose in life. We chose Duke over other schools because we wanted to be challenged and to prove that we could leave our mark on the world. But while we all share this same drive to accomplish and be successful, we are each engaged in a different dream. At Duke, we’re on a face-paced track, taking 200-level classes, getting internships with big-name companies and making connections with the people who are shaping the world in ways we admire. Our dreams are becoming a reality.
This is what we’ve always wanted.
But during college, we’re also meeting people who open our eyes to new ideas, who show us the world in an amazing way. Over coffee, during discussion sections or in the Bryan Center we’ve spent hours talking to someone who we can’t take our eyes off of. This person makes us laugh at night and smile when we wake up in the morning; even if we’re not in a relationship with them, they’re someone we know we were supposed to become best friends with.
Somewhere along the line most of us have gotten really close to someone, maybe even fallen in love.
And so, we spend our four years of college finding friends like this and holding on to them. We share our summer adventure stories, learn from each other’s mistakes and successes and admire each other’s passions and dreams, sharing encouraging words along the way. These people mean the world to us.
But for some reason this scares us beyond belief.
Somehow this doesn’t fit with our plan of achieving our dreams. We want to be independent; we want to go off and change the world in our own way. But we never planned on falling for someone else. When we graduate as seniors, most people who are dating are faced with the question of either marrying or breaking up because one person is going to graduate school in California while the other is working in New York. In a rational world everything makes sense: get your job, follow your dream and you’ll be successful.
But throw in emotions and everything seems to get messed up a bit. You find yourself in a foreign country, working an amazing job, realizing you aren’t enjoying your dream fully because you miss being with a person who is halfway across the world. How can you choose between your dream of saving humanity and being with that person you care about?
Society tells us to follow our dreams, our University tells us that success is working our that job we’ve always wanted, and our parents tell us to do whatever our heart desires (although they secretly hope their $40,000 a year in tuition doesn’t go to waste). We have career counselors telling us how to get that internship, get accepted to med school and get that high paying job. But no one is telling us how to work our feelings into this equation for success.
Sometimes I wish I were five again, when I was afraid of monsters living in my closet, my only job was to run outside and play and the only decisions I had to make involved what kind of ice cream I wanted for dessert.
I guess it’s all part of growing up.
Anne Katharine Wales is a Trinity junior.
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