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Sep. 17, 2015
Photo Credit: Tom Brown, Flickr.

After fourteen years of schooling, it’s safe to say I’ve learned enough math formulas to last me a lifetime. I couldn’t tell you what most of them are actually for, but I know that as long as all the variables are plugged in correctly, they’ll work. Every single time.

But what happens when this concept is applied to everyday life? Most high school and college students are taught (whether explicitly or implicitly) that attending an Ivy league school, landing a job with a six figure salary and marrying the man or woman of their dreams are the three most important variables on the path to a happy and healthy life. Amidst so many proclamations of the importance of individuality and praise for diversity, this idea of a “formula” to life is a little misleading.

Starting my senior year of high school, I found myself questioning these aspects of my life more and more as I tried to figure out who I was and who I wanted to become over the course of my college career. Although I still spent most of my time worrying about school, good grades came easily to me and I was well-liked by my peers and teachers. But when it came time to start talking about college, the nutrition and dietetics major that I planned on studying at a small, private college in Illinois didn’t match up with what I could be doing according to my ACT score and transcript (or so I was told by a few too many people in my life). Then, tack on the fact that every girl in my circle of friends (except me of course) was engrossed in a romantic relationship that seemed to be heading too quickly down some slippery slopes. Long story short, by second semester senior year I was incredibly insecure. About my never-been-kissed 18-year-old self. About my so carefully researched plans to become a dietitian. About the beliefs and values I had been taught since before I can remember.

Somewhere in that insecurity, I found hope in the new beginning I was sure I’d find in college. I’d confidently stroll onto campus, with no worries about what would come next, perfectly content to tackle my dietetics courses. My soulmate would magically walk into my life at the perfect moment. I’d make friends that wouldn’t stray the minute a guy came into the picture and would help me grow in my faith, not question it. Right?

Wrong.

At least partially. While I did end up loving my major and finding an incredible group of people at our Newman Center on campus, Prince Charming didn’t sweep me off my feet and there’s never a day when I’m 100 percent confident that I’m on the right path. But I’ve come to see that there is really no such thing as a “right” decision. Sure, some are better than others, but no matter what, you’ll find pros (and inevitably a few cons) to all the major decisions you have to make. College especially. There’s no need to choose that prestigious school thousands of miles away just because that’s what society says you should do. Furthermore, I’ve learned to trust my instincts. Advice from trusted friends/family members/mentors is important, but in the long run your gut feelings are usually right. If something feels off, it’s likely not the best choice for you at that moment. And finally, there’s more than one way to get wherever you’re going.

As much as we’d like to believe it, there really is no formula to life. No set equation that, when followed closely, will lead to happiness and success. No set amount of significant others. No college or major that is the right fit just based on prestige.

Each of us is exactly where we are supposed to be in this moment.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.
Plans to prosper and not to harm.
Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

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