Most of the things we “want” in life are actually expectations placed upon us by others.
You may truly believe you want something without realizing that you are actually trying to please others or make your ego look better. It takes a lot of self-examination, as well as confidence in your own desires, to know what you genuinely wish for.
When I was deciding on where I wanted to go to college many years ago, I made the mistake of focusing on what would make others happy rather than what was best fit for me. I wasn’t really thinking about my career path or my future.
I knew that I wanted to leave my own town/state because I couldn’t see my future there. (A lot of that has to do with expenses and environment.) And I also knew I still wanted to be somewhat close to home and family, definitely within driving distance.
I ended up choosing the college that was right near my grandma. Now, I have to say that I am thankful I had that time to be close to her and see her more often, especially knowing that was towards the end of her life. But I shouldn’t have chosen it solely based on people wanting me to be there. My mom, my whole family, was super excited, my grandma especially was ecstatic. And again, I’ll add that it was very nice to be close to her for that time. But that college was definitely not for me, and even when I took my first tour there, I was basically forcing myself to like it.
The college was nice, I remember it had an excellent gym with fun dance classes. There was a yummy smoothie bar I’d go to every morning. But the whole college program specialized in education/teaching, which I was definitely not interested in.
I did make a few good friends there. But many of the people there were extremely closed off, and I clashed with so many. I think the issue was that I realized I came here making the “safe choice,” and this made it hard for me to get along with others. It seemed like everyone came to this college with different intentions than I did. A lot of people lived only a few minutes away and were not trying to meet new people or make new friends. Most were there for education/teaching. It seemed like everyone came with their high school friends and were not interested in meeting new people or making new friends. Many did not want the true “college experience” of starting over and trying new things. It’s like everyone was stuck in their little box and judged anyone who was slightly different from them. If you didn’t live within a few miles of the college, they thought you were too different and judged you.
I don’t want to trash the college though because there were many good things about it, still. And I did meet some really awesome people there, even if I’m not in touch with them anymore, I’ll never forget the select few who were so kind and open minded. But it clearly was not what I was looking for. And one of the worst feelings ever is knowing I made the wrong decision, just because I couldn’t trust myself or know myself enough. So it was very devestating to me.
After explaining to my family how horrible it was, they were extremely supportive about me transferring. My grandma was disappointed but placed absolutely no blame on me. And then I realized it was all in my head — so worried about letting people down — in reality, my family would’ve supported me with any decision I made. And it’s crazy I ever imagined otherwise. It’s funny how we are so worried about letting people down, when the truth is that people who love you will support your choices no matter what.
Second semester of freshmen year, I transferred to an amazing college (trust me I have many complaints about it still!) But this was one of my greatest decisions. And I changed my major. For the first time I actually thought hard about what type of job I wanted. I realized how badly I wanted to work with animals. I put my own needs first. I was still very close to family, but I felt like this college was destined for me. I actually felt like I belonged here, which is the best feeling ever.
And I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t been brave. It was not the “safe choice,” it was a risk, it was a choice I had to make completely on my own, without anyone adding their input, and it was exactly what I needed. If I didn’t transfer colleges, I wouldn’t have changed my major to the field I’m currently in and I wouldn’t be at my job today or be where I’ve landed, which I am very thankful for.
This is just one of many, many examples when I felt stuck between what I wanted verses what I thought I wanted.
I know how it feels to make decisions based on fear of not doing what’s expected of me. And I know how traumatic it feels when it hits you, that you aren’t living your own life, you’re living someone else’s version of your life. It feels like self-betrayal. And the saddest part is that you have no one else to blame but yourself. You can’t blame the people around you for the choices you make. As much as others influence you, it’s your choice to decide if they control you. You can continue to convince yourself that you’re following your heart — but it’s only a matter of time before you realize you’re following your head, you’re following ideas that people feed you, you’re following expectations, and you’re living in fear of judgment, you’re forcing something because you’re scared.
But it’s never too late. For example, I made that decision to transfer colleges freshmen year. I could’ve waited till senior year to transfer, and that would’ve added more pain, but it would not have been too late. Dwelling on wasted time only wastes more time. Going to the wrong college was possibly my greatest blessing, because for the first time in my life I could see how devastating it is to make the “safe choice” instead of taking a risk.
And I’ll tell you that I still battle with this. Being a people pleaser, especially wanting my family to be proud of me, is something that is deep rooted. I continue to make the wrong decisions out of fear. But now I am making a conscious effort to break this pattern. It doesn’t mean I woke up today and now all my decisions will be based on faith instead of fear. I know I’m going to continue screwing up, I’m going to continue having a battle with fear, with ego, with trying to please everyone. But the important thing is that with time I become more conscious of my failures and every day I make an effort to better myself. And it’s not an upwards slope either, I progress and then regress and then progress again. The point is that I am trying. And I’m sorry for anyone negatively affected by my times of coward-ness. And most especially I’m sorry to the universe, I’m sorry to God, I’m sorry to my heart, for the times I did not trust my higher calling.