People look so good in suits. There’s something about the crisp, clean lines of black blazers and laced ties that flatters everyone. Maybe it's the quiet confidence it seems to allow people to emit, the kind that comes with being done up nicely. I’ve passed a lot of suits and skirts and briefcases on campus recently, which is how you know internship season has arrived. Every time, I notice and admire. Every time, I feel a little worm of guilt.

It’s a complicated kind of guilt. I’m an English and Public Policy major, and I'm certain I don’t want a job in consulting, banking or finance this summer. I'm content to let others who are more suited pursue them . Even under their pressed suits, I can see how hard some of my friends are working for something they genuinely want, and I am pleased for them when it works out . Nevertheless, I still wonder if I’ve made a mistake. I wonder when I hear stories of salaries and resumés, but still my blazer collects oddly shaped lint in my closet. Because in a sense, by not participating in the job search, I am turning down a very certain pathway that generations of Duke students have carved out in the past. Duke has offered me a pathway to financial stability, and the certainty of knowing the answers after graduation, a pathway that so many people in the world might never be offered—and I am saying no.

The first time I discovered the concept of a “liberal arts” degree that undergraduate American students undertook, I was seventeen and thought it was the most wonderful thing I had ever heard. The Australian system really has no such thing—faced with choosing a major right out of high school, I chose to run to a country that gave me the option of figuring it out. The concept of learning for the sake of learning and undertaking studies in any combination of literature, biology, language was what seduced me to apply to Duke. I liked the idea of college as an era where mistakes were supposed to be made and passions were supposed to be ignited. Duke was the place where I would find what I loved most to do and then, armed with that knowledge, I’d go and do it.

Of course, I learned very quickly that even in a liberal arts program, there are preordained pathways that you cannot avoid and veering towards a pre-professional focus, whether you want to or not, is the norm. Duke is filled with so many pathways that students and advisors have meticulously laid out, and perhaps it is the rational thing to follow them. I have always pictured my future through the lens of idealism. I had to love my job, unquestionably. Why do something for nine hours a day if you don't love it, and aren't inspired by it? But as pretty as it is to think in terms of fulfillment, I cannot deny that I still want the same things that all of us want, that people all over the world want: to not worry about money and to make my parents proud.

Everyday, when I pass students in suits, I’m confronted with the possibility of a career that will guarantee those things to some degree, and they are very real concerns. I think of how much easier and efficient it would be to follow that pathway and have the relief of knowing, instead of floundering along on a road that may lead nowhere. I remember my father drilling multiplication tables for me in late summer afternoons, and picking me again and again from after school classes, community service and the airport, so that I might have a better start than he did. And I think of how many other thousands of people will have wished their entire lives for the kind of resources Duke has given me access too. That is the guilt, and it hurts keenly.

Yet it is good to realize that the world is a complicated and unruly place where nothing is certain, not even the most definitive of careers. Pathways that begin at pre-law, pre-med or pre-business do not always end there, and pathways that begin elsewhere might lead there in the very end. None of us really know how it'll turn out in the end—that is the fun part. It's hard to not feel like I'm squandering my degree sometimes, but I have made my choices and I like them. Ultimately, the legacy that my college years will leave goes far beyond the job search, in ways that I don't even understand yet.

That blazer in my closet might be shaken off when it's time, or it might never see the light of day. Until then, I will take this uncertainty and letting it fuel the rest of days here, where I will say the wrong things and right things. I will read books my professors have written. I will go on long walks with new friends. Keep learning. Keep checking out people in suits. That's college.

Isabella Kwai is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Thursday.

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