When I was younger I wanted to be a vet: set up my stuffed animals in a row and poked them with pens, listened to their heart beats and prescribed them more stuffing, bigger hugs, and more love. Later I would want to be a teacher, made my mother and father sit on the floor while I explained the alphabet, read them books about caterpillars and taught them how they turned into butterflies. In a month I moved on: doctor, olympian, pilot, astronaut, chef.

    It was child curiosity; in a world so full of knowledge and activities, it was nearly impossible for me to decide, and there was no pressure for it. At the young age of seven, this was perfectly normal. I continued to tell myself this at the age of eleven, when I couldn’t finish a book. At fourteen, when I found myself switching between friends, tired of the same advice. At sixteen, when I was set on which school I would attend post-graduation and then changed my mind and program at the last minute, and then, again, one semester in.

    I repeated the same thing to myself over and over: in a world so full, it is nearly impossible to decide. The only difference now was I was no longer seven, no longer subject to a pressure-less environment, no longer living with the freedom I once had. I had come to an age where it was normal to be making decisions, big and small, where it was normal to show and maintain commitment. I was lost: stuck facing the consequences of never learning how to commit, and now trying to decide a future I wanted no part of.

    One of the problems of my generation is that we are constantly being exposed to new things, technology, ideas, cultures, etc. There is so much external stimuli, constantly pushing its way into our lives, that I find it is still, at the age of eighteen, nearly impossible to center my focus, to make a decision and stand by it. When I buy an iPhone, there is a new one available almost right away. The drinks at popular coffee shops change so consistently that finding a favourite and developing a habit of drinking it is unlikely. Fifteen minutes of fame has been shortened to fifteen seconds. Change is our only constant.

    I once had an academic advisor tell me, “60% of the jobs you will be applying into haven’t been created yet.” How are my peers and I supposed to decide what to study, when we don’t even know what we’re studying for? How are we supposed to choose the most fruitful career when the most fruitful career now will not be the most fruitful career by the time we graduate? How are we supposed to both commit to a field of education and keep up with an ever changing world? It seems as though what we study now will be absolute. Medical technology is changing so rapidly, that by the time one student graduates from Med School, their knowledge will not be up to date. Even art students cannot learn enough to keep up with trends- one minute, political art is popular, and the next, the art world is encouraging abstract thought.

    I, as an eighteen year-old student, still find myself standing in the cereal aisle for over ten minutes, trying to decide between types. I always feel the opportunity cost looming over me. Yes, right now, I might want Cheerios, but what about tomorrow morning? Should I even be buying cereal? Or should I be spending money on something else- how do I know this is a good investment?

    When I translate this thought into more pertinent subjects, my education, my mind becomes a mess. Why did I choose to study arts? What will I apply into, when the time comes for university applications? How am I supposed to commit to something that I’ve never even tried? How am I supposed to commit to something when I know something new will appear almost immediately?

    I believe that there is no way to make a “right” choice, and, subsequently, there is no right choice. This is easy to say to myself in moments of calm, but does not succeed in relaxing my mind when my university application page is open, and I am staring at the list of programs to choose from. Nonetheless, it is an important lesson to teach: that yes, commitment is crucial, and we all, at some point, will need to exercise it- but, that the plethora of opportunities that surround us have not only given us anxiety, they have also provided us with a certain freedom. Ironically, commitment is not set in stone. Commitment is just as much something to try as it is something to stick with. If you do not like civil engineering, do not continue to major in it. If you do not want to be an artist, do not continue to be. There are so many other things to be that it is not necessary to do what we don’t like. The world does not need half-assed engineers and poets, the world needs passion.

    And the best thing about all of these overwhelming choices? It leaves so much room to find passion.


Published by Emily Peotto