You Know Nothing Until You Get To College

Life is strange. One day you are a junior in high school waking up at 6:50 a.m. to get to AP Biology at 7:20 a.m. Then, you are going through the rest of your average day of physics, precalculus, AP U.S. history, English and theater classes. You hang out with friends and talk about the future. 

You plan on going to a top university to study genetics. Eventually, you want to get a Ph.D. and lead research teams. You’re never going to get married or have kids. You’re going to make a lot of money, travel the world, do groundbreaking research and get published in countless scientific journals. 

Then one day you wake up. 

You are suddenly about to be 21 years old, at SUNY New Paltz, a journalism major, debating even going to graduate school and wanting to live in the Hudson Valley one day with your future family. 

No? Just me? Seriously?

I was the kid who thought they had it all figured out. I knew I would go to college and be a biology major to study genetics and make a difference in the medical community. I had decided this to be a fact when I was 14 years old. The future I had in mind dictated my high school experience and almost college, with the classes I chose and the programs I applied to. 

While applying to colleges, I searched for them based on their genetics programs and their current research initiatives. I wanted to go somewhere with state-of-the-art equipment and labs. A big name school that could get me places and work alongside the best of the best. 

So after applying to 12 schools, getting into 11 and only a handful being feasible financially, I landed on SUNY New Paltz. A school that was, on paper, not what I wanted. A school I initially refused to apply to because my older brother was studying here. I wanted to be my own person, away from everything I knew. However, my mom made me apply here as a safety school in case I panicked and changed my mind.

I toured most of the schools I got into briefly and was ready to commit to SUNY Plattsburgh, but something was still missing. Because I knew New Paltz and loved the town from visiting for two years, nothing else compared, so I committed here instead.

I started my freshman year on track to declare a Bachelor of Arts in biology, thinking I’d still get to go to a big-name school like Johns Hopkins as a graduate student. Then I started taking classes: biology, chemistry, labs, calculus and an introductory course for women’s gender and sexuality. I felt like all of the life got sucked out of me. 

By the time finals week rolled around in the fall semester, I found myself sitting on the bench outside of the library trying to convince myself it was worth it to go study calculus. I got on the phone with my mom and told her I needed to change my major. We agreed I’d finish out the year in biology to see if it got better. It did not. 

In the meantime, I had an identity crisis of figuring out what I was good at and what I should do with the rest of my life. It’s a scary feeling when everything you thought you knew about yourself and what you wanted suddenly is not true. To look back at your past self and, with full confidence, say you were wrong. But it’s also not the 14 year old me’s fault. I did not know enough about the realities of the field I wanted to go into until I got to speak with professors and learn from them. 

So, back to the drawing board I went. Writing seemed to be a strong suit, and I always enjoyed the reading and digging parts of research. I knew I did not want to be an English major. So, I decided to try out journalism. 

A pretty big jump from biology, but I originally intended to write for medical publications or science-based news. However, after a semester of journalism and spending my time in the local music scene as a photographer, I found a real passion for music journalism. It was the same level of passion I had for biology when I was 14. 

While I was rethinking my career path, I was also rethinking a lot of things that I decided on when I was 14. Why was I so against getting married and having a family? Where did I really want to live one day? What were my new goals and milestones going to look like?

The first question probably would take some psychology to explain that I do not understand. But now, much to my mother’s pleasant surprise, a family is something I look forward to. I’ve also fallen in love with the Hudson Valley. As someone who grew up in the city and always hated it, seeing another life and getting to live it has been a gift. I don’t ever want to go back. 

So what do I want to do now? I will graduate next spring. I’ll apply to grad schools and maybe I’ll go if I can reasonably afford one. If not, I’ll start applying to various jobs and pray I get one. I want to travel a little while I’m still young and have the time and freedom. I want to live in Seattle for a little while if the opportunity presents itself. I want to work for a music publication like Rolling Stone or Billboard. I want to live in the Hudson Valley when I’m older. I want a family one day. 

Do I know for certain I’ll be a successful journalist, get married, have a family and live here? No. But that’s one thing I learned through my identity crisis. You can never be certain of anything and you have to be okay with that. Plans change and that can be a good thing.

The one thing I am sure of now is that I knew nothing until I went to college.