The art of jumping…from a somewhat wise senior

This year is full of lasts. It is my last semester at Hope College, and this is one of my last print edition issues of The Anchor. I am taking my last courses, and I am enjoying my last breaths of this simulated world we call college.

I say “simulated world” because at college we do not live as functioning adults. Many students are still relying on their families for support—monetarily, emotionally and physically—and most of us do not work a 9-5.

We walk through college with some goal in mind so that we can leave home, or for some people, help support our homes. I believe that higher education is a place to nurture and grow our own passions, interests and skills ranging from the natural sciences to the arts. However, through this journey, we have to develop some goal; or else, we are just wandering through life with little purpose. Now that does not sound very good.

Whether this goal is an occupation, a deeper understanding of a particular subject, a stepping stone towards another higher degree or even to find the love of your life—these are all admirable goals to discover at college.

I entered college with a very concrete goal: to become the best surgeon I could possibly be. About 3% inspired by “Grey’s Anatomy,” I learned as much as I could about surgery, the different paths it could bring me down and even learned how to suture early on in high school. However, once I finished my first year, where I was exposed to the vastness of a liberal arts education, I changed my mind. I chose to explore my other interests that bled over from high school. As a result, I jumped paths. I decided that I did not want to become a doctor, and instead, directed my attention to something else: chemistry research. I started researching organic chemistry here at Hope
the summer before my freshman year, and I fell in love with it. I continued to deepen that love by researching at multiple institutions all around the United States.

This jump was uncomfortable, but I persevered through that bit of discomfort. What discomfort you may ask? Imagine you have been working toward one goal for many years, making decisions in regard to that single goal, then that goal just vanishes. Wouldn’t that make you uncomfortable? I had pictured myself as a surgeon for years, making many decisions based on that goal. It was hard to let go of something so ambitious and renowned as becoming a doctor.

Although this jump shook some future plans, I rebounded and directed my energies toward becoming the best research chemist. Even though I had research as my priority, I did not stop exploring all my random and widespread interests. I attended conferences where I sat with others late into the night discussing ideological dilemmas. I helped found a TEDx organization at Hope. I marched on the streets of D.C. for something I vehemently believe in.

As I moved through college, my non-science passions and interests started to shine through. I became involved here at The Anchor. I was published for the first time in the Wall Street Journal. I joined politically active clubs and became involved with deep-thinking organizations like the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

I fell in love with the constant excitement of working within journalism and politics. Political theory fascinates me. Campaigns excite me. Articulating my opinion for the world to read brings me joy.

But even with all of these feelings, I still had one goal in mind going into my study abroad semester—chemistry research. But here is the catch: in London, there was no chemistry research to be conducted. Instead, I could only deepen my passion for journalism and politics.

So, once again, I jumped paths. Now do not get me wrong, I still love chemistry and the impact I could make while researching. But in my heart, I know that what excites every atom of my being lies with politics and journalism. It is hard to give up something that you’ve been working on for the last three years, but in the end, you have to make choices in life.

To throw one more curveball, I’ve decided to join the Peace Corps with my boyfriend and move to Liberia for the next two years. This was not in my plan, but I jumped. The Peace Corps is something that I have always thought was admirable; however, I thought it would be outrageous for me to actually do it. As I discerned this decision, I realized that this is the perfect time to make a jump. This jump did not make me uncomfortable or leave any uncertainty. It felt like the norm because I have walked through college normalizing resonating goals.

My point is not to narrate all of my life choices for you, but rather to say that it is okay to figure out your goals as you walk through college and life. This is the time to jump from one passion to another and explore your compatibility with something or even someone else. When you were growing up, your parents likely told you to try many things. This could be sports, theater, dance or really anything. So why do we discard this adventurous spirit once we go to college? Some of the greatest leaders in our world are the most multifaceted people where it is hard to describe what exactly they do. Names that come to mind are Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Joe Rogan. They have dipped their toes in so many areas affecting our world, and you can too.

You have to be comfortable with making uncomfortable choices. You may be the only one who is studying physics while also writing poetry on the side—but that’s okay. You have to be flexible with your own future. I was the person to write out my four-year college plan the summer before my freshman year. Now look at me! I’ve changed my life goals multiple times in just the span of a few years. And it is because I took time during college to lean into all of my interests instead of secluding myself to one discipline.

I am graduating this May with a chemistry degree, with hopes to become a political commentator, with a Peace Corps position waiting for me in Liberia. How confusing is that? I have jumped from path to path, and I could not be happier with my choices. Each experience has shaped me into the person I am today. I have learned what I love.

Once you decide that it is okay to change your goals in accordance with your passions, then you can have the freedom to do whatever you want. Life does not have to be one linear path, we don’t just get to have one vocation. Instead, our paths can zigzag along, going from one thing to the next. We have the freedom in America to pursue, at least, most of the things that we find inspiring in the world.

I’ve put my foot into so many doors these past four years, and I urge you to do the same. This leaves only one question: which door should you first enter and close behind you?

(Featured image: Pixabay)

Therese Joffre ('24) is studying chemistry and plans to pursue a PhD in chemistry. She is the Opinion Editor of The Anchor, the website/marketing managers of The Bell Tower, a TA in the chemistry and anatomy labs, a tutor, does research in organic chemistry, and is the campus leader for the Ford Leadership Forum. In her free time, she enjoys travel, reading, adventuring in the outdoors and eating a variety of foods.

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