Editorial: It’s okay to not have it all figured out

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching us, and with it comes a flurry of expectations about the importance of finding “the one.” We see these expectations everywhere—in advertisements, on social media, in the shows and songs we consume—and these expectations can give the impression that you need to be at a certain stage in life: You’re supposed to be in a romantic relationship and be able to move in with your partner right after graduation; you’re supposed to get married at a certain age and start a family; you’re supposed to do so many things at a certain time in your life, and anything less than that is failure.

But life doesn’t always work out like that. In fact, most people find their “life partner” later in their 20s—for women, 25, and for men, 28. And those are just averages, so some might even start their long-term relationship later. Either way, if you’re not in a relationship right now, you are not behind. People can find love at different stages in their lives, and there is no “correct” path that you should follow. Take as much time as you think you need, and don’t be too hard on yourself for not having dating figured out yet.

In a similar manner, figuring out what you want to do in your professional life can seem daunting and can cause many of the same feelings to surface. If you’re in college, you’re expected to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. You should have a major picked out, a career path in mind and a plan to get there, all by the time you graduate after four years.

Again, not everyone’s college career is as simple as that. Sometimes, degrees can take more than four years to finish. This fact has become even more apparent in recent years: Only 44% of college students complete their degree within the typical time frame. Moreover, since many students work a regular job to pay off tuition, change their majors or have important family obligations, many colleges have begun looking at six years as a sign of success.

What this means is that there is no specified time within which you need to complete your degree. You’re not any more behind than others if you don’t finish in four years. And for us students at an academically rigorous institution such as Case Western Reserve University, where workloads can be difficult to manage on top of our normal life responsibilities, taking a bit more time is understandable.

The same is true for choosing what you want to major in. Figuring out the field you want to study and eventually finding a job in it is no easy decision—you might even swap out one degree for another, as nearly two out of every five students do. So don’t stress over needing to choose the “perfect” major; you’ll eventually find what you want to do, and you don’t need to stick to one degree when you enter college.

Regardless of the expectations that are placed upon you—whether romantic, academic or professional—you don’t need to have everything figured out right now. You still have years ahead of you to find your place in life. And instead of worrying so much about the future, give yourself the opportunity to live in the present moment. In due time, you’ll make your way through life.

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