With my first year over, and my course selection for second year fast approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do for the rest of my life. Having grown up in a household where university was not a maybe but a must, I often forget what a privilege it is to be able to attain higher education. It is not an opportunity afforded to everyone, but more people today are pursuing higher education than at any point in history.
We’ve begun to live for the future. With medical advancements and improvements over the past hundred years or so, our life expectancy has nearly doubled. (God bless Penicillin.) A species that could not expect to live past fifty in 1915 is now capable of surpassing the hundred year mark. Thus, our lives have become less about enjoying the moment and more about ensuring our coffins are comfortable.
Let me explain. Having done my first year in a science program, I was surrounded by people who wanted to go to Medical School. Finishing Undergrad at 22, finishing Med School at 26, 2-3 years of Residency, 2-3 years of studying a specialization. Already well into their 30’s, by this point. A hundred years ago, they could have counted how many years they had left on their fingers.
It’s both fascinating and terrifying. Living longer has allowed us to pursue education without the fear of missing out on living our lives; there’s time to travel the world in our 30’s and 40’s, right? After retirement, right? But then there are kids to save up for — they need higher education, for a good life too, right?
I’m not saying drop out of school and use that money to backpack Europe. It’s not entirely feasible. I’m sure some people do it. It was never an option for me, in my house — my parents worked their way up from the ground, went halfway across the world to ensure I got a quality education and ample opportunity to succeed. And I plan on it.
I guess life is just choosing between experiences. The fact is, you can’t experience everything. At every moment, you’re choosing the experience you want, and these experiences shape you. I’m choosing university. But within that, every night, for example, I must choose between studying and a social event — and I’m choosing between experiences.
We think we have time. We do, I suppose, life is the longest thing we do. But at the same time, we’re all struggling to fit as many experiences from an infinite list into a finite amount of time.
If our lives were infinite, and we had the opportunity to do everything, the choices we make would not matter. Finite, means we matter. Every single second, you’re making a choice, and you’re missing out on hundreds of experiences. And that choice shapes you.
I don’t know how I got from course selection to this. Truth is, I feel like the choices I have to make for next year will probably shape the rest of my life, and that’s terrifying. Perhaps it helps to know that I’m constantly making choices that are shaping the rest of my life. I’ve been doing it for 18 years, and I’ve gotten this far without going off the rails (entirely), so I must be at least somewhat skilled at it.
We’ll be fine. I’m sure people are tired of hearing that not everyone makes Medical School, or Law School, or Grad School. I sure am, but, at the end of the day, it’s the truth. I’m going to keep trying to tell myself that it just means that I’m open to the hundreds, thousands of experiences I would have missed out on had I ended up pursuing that path. Working incredibly hard to get there, while pausing every once in a while to make sure that it’s still what I want.
So. Here’s to living a little less for the future, a little more for now, without closing any doors, and thinking a little harder about the ones we choose to go through.