During fall break, I went to a concert in New York City and had, what you might call, a moment. I was standing at the back of a crowd, watching the stage lights flicker and dancing to the beat, when a feeling came over me. A kind of hyper-awareness of how uncertain and unknown the future was. A panicked realization of how little I knew about the rest of my life. And how every little decision could potentially change the trajectory of my life. I was dancing and the feeling grew stronger, and I thought, "Bella, you have no idea what you’re doing." It was actually terrifying.

I don’t know the word for this feeling, just that it has become part of my life as an undergraduate. These days, I will be walking across the grey stones of the Quad, or lying on my bed listening to music or crawling into a cab for Friday night festivities, and the feeling will come. It’s not that I don’t have an idea of direction. I have never been a 10-year plan kind of gal—to me, the future has always had that aura of the unknown variable, like the dark side of the moon. But I feel that I have always known what the next step is. Those of us who have played the student game for a while know that the key to having the options you want, unfortunately, is not only skill or talent, but strategy—following the blueprint that millions before us have laid out. Get good grades in high school, ace standardized testing, apply to college. I have completed steps one to four, and now that I’m a junior and graduation is vaguely in sight, for the first time there is no safe next step. Because I don’t know what I want to do.

This is not to say that I don’t have dreams or aspirations or a sense of direction in the choices I make. Joining The Chronicle as a columnist was one of those decisions. I am drawn to certain activities because they make me feel alive or I am good at them or they contribute to a better cause. But do I know where I’ll be in five years? I don’t even know the country.

I'm afraid that I’ll make the wrong choices and end up with a future I don’t like. I’m afraid of all that possibility cupped in my hands, because it means having the fulfilling life I want is within reach—but I have to discover what that means first. There are thousands of different lives I can live, stemming from the moment I leave Duke—but which one should I choose? I see, sometimes, an image of me sitting at an office desk, dressed in my business best, typing busily and drinking coffee. And at other times, myself walking by the water in a cityscape I’ve never seen, with just a backpack on. Which life? Which place?

What I’m most afraid of is letting the uncertainty pressure me into picking security over what I truly want. I could live any and all of the lives I have mentioned. Some would fulfill me and others mediocre, just okay. Settling for okay, however, just doesn't feel right any more. I want the future where I am doing exactly what I want, and working for what I believe in. I don’t know the word for this feeling, the anything-can-happen sense, as if on the edge of a cliff, as if the secret is just around the corner. But it this feeling should not fear me into following a path I don’t want, or making hasty decisions for the sake of knowing that next step.

Because this kind of uncertainty won’t last forever. There will come a time where the projection of our lives will seem linear and clear. The baby will keep us up at night again, and again, or we’ll drive the route to work, avoiding the 8 a.m. traffic, or we’ll get married and wake up next to the same person. Certainty will come. We will know better and better what the future will bring. We will perhaps try to capture a sense of uncertainty again—spontaneous vacation to Hawaii, picking up karate—and it won't be quite the same. As frightening as it is, the uncertainty we have now is also the gift of freedom.

And I remember too, that so much of the future is out of my control. I can make the choices and learn the skills and meet the people, but where they lead ultimately depends on far more. Even now, we are living in moments that were once unknown. Duke was once that. If you had sat me down at 16, horribly cut fringe (bangs, for you Americans) and told me that at 21 I would make it to college in a country ten thousand miles away, screaming my hatred for anything baby-blue, I would have laughed.

I don’t know what the future looks like. All I know is the now, and I intend to enjoy it, because if I trust myself, in a future that has yet to happen, there are no wrong choices. And perhaps I might have another moment, like during Fall Break. After the concert, my friend Meaghan and I walked out into the 3 a.m. quiet and the roads were slick with new rain. As we jumped puddles on the intersection, I looked at the play of lights on the glass buildings that rose on either side of us. I thought I glimpsed a faint premonition of a future I could have—a future just out of reach.

But I wasn’t sure.

Bella Kwai is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Friday.