At some point during my senior year of high school, I lost interest in everything I had considered sacred. I was a theatre nerd all my life, and I had passionately performed in literally every production my school put on. I applied to Wesleyan primarily because I wanted to perform in as many shows as possible. Then, I just didn’t want to perform any longer. I was saddened that I would no longer perform with all the people I had grown so close to in high school, and was admittedly experiencing intense burnout, but my disinterest was deeper than that. It was no longer what I wanted as a career, nor as a hobby even. This was not merely a shift in personal interests; it was the loss of my own identity. I was a thespian for as long as I could remember. Suddenly, I wasn’t.
So I began my first year at Wesleyan in the throes of an existential crisis. I existed without a sense of direction or purpose, I couldn’t recognize who I was, and any decision about what classes I took and what I wanted to major in took on monumental weight. I didn’t have friends and wasn’t very good at making them, as nearly everyone I befriended in the past was a fellow actor. I went to meetings for clubs that didn’t interest me. I tried to force an interest in the sciences even if I had none. I spent Friday nights alone even when I didn’t want to. I was, for the first time in my short life, adrift in a sea of confusion.
Yet, nearly a full school year later, I’m sitting in Olin Library writing my 24th article for The Argus. I’m a senator for the Wesleyan Student Assembly. I’m not at a loss for friends, and I’m enrolled in the College of Letters.
I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life, or even who I really am. Frankly, I don’t really care about any of that. Embracing uncertainty got me to where I am now, not planning out my every move. If I didn’t make the irrational choice to sacrifice hours of sleep and spend October 21, a Wednesday night, watching the entire “Back to the Future” trilogy, I never would have met some of my closest friends. If I had listened to my intellect over my impulse and didn’t take Italian 101, a class I knew from prior experience would be extremely difficult, I wouldn’t have applied for the College of Letters, a major which now seems perfect for me. If I didn’t preview Second Stage’s “Un/Do,” I probably wouldn’t be writing for The Argus now. And if I dropped out of Psychology 101, a class I was on the verge of failing…well, I would’ve saved myself a lot of tears and received a higher GPA last semester.
Yes, uncertainty is neither friend nor foe. It can force people into their darkest places but also help them ascend to their greatest. I now have no regrets about taking Italian, but if you were to ask me only a few weeks ago, when I was a mess of stress and anxiety over my inability to understand basic sentence structure, I definitely would have felt differently. Same goes for applying to the College of Letters: I spent my entire spring break agonizing over whether or not to even apply. I still harbor some uncertainty about it; after all, I haven’t worked with any of the professors in the program, I haven’t met many of the students in it, I’d have to continue struggling with Italian for another couple of years, etc. But I no longer hate this sense of uncertainty. I embrace it, as only through doubt and risk can people grow and change, learn and evolve.
Going through life minimizing uncertainty and risk, planning every action and major decision, makes for a dull life. Unfortunately, much of my life, in retrospect, seems to have been lived this way. I loved doing theatre, and will always be grateful for it, as it introduced me to great teachers and helped me overcome issues of self-esteem. But, at a certain point, I began limiting myself and my interests. I never explored my vague interest in literature or history, simply because I viewed anything that wasn’t related to theatre as an obstacle to doing more theatre. I tried to suppress any doubts about performance as a career. I had, essentially, decided that because I enjoyed something very deeply, it was the only thing I could enjoy, and I felt compelled to plan my entire life around it.
One year at Wesleyan has changed my mind entirely, and I hope that any incoming first-years follow this age-old advice: Don’t spend your college years purely fixated on what job you’ll have when you graduate, or forcing yourself down a narrow but familiar path. Allow your previously held sense of self to collapse, so you can transcend your past identity and evolve into someone new. College is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a rare moment when you’re surrounded by new ideas, interesting people and professors, and the chance to explore a variety of interests. Don’t waste your time at Wesleyan, or anywhere you go. Embrace uncertainty, with both its perils and triumphs.
Spiro is a member of the class of 2019.