Written by Alexandra Joan Bennett
Thinking outside the box inside the box should be a required course. To me it means getting to where you want to be no matter what stands in your way. It’s about realizing your limits and creating from inside of them anyway. As a freshman working my way through my second semester, I realize this way of thinking is especially important to college students. In college we are trying to figure out what we are trying to ultimately become—what’s “outside the box”—how we become it and how we overcome our limits and make them work for us in a positive way. Life is a path and certainly not an easy one to navigate. There are always going to be obstacles. The creativity and initiative that we take getting around those obstacles are what make life interesting and make us who we are. But how do we decide what is at the end of our path, or outside of the box? Where do our original goals come from?
I remember when I was in elementary school my goal was to be a writer. I wanted to write big glossy books just like the ones on the shelves in the library. Somewhere inside me I still have that dream. I think it’s amazing that even as a little kid I recognized that writing was something I loved and something I was good at. If you ask me today what it is I am good at, I probably won’t be able to tell you so easily. It seems like when we are younger it’s easier to have those revelations and, as we get older we start to dismiss those talents as unrealistic to apply to any actual goals. But who says those dreams aren’t realistic? That process of labeling what is realistic and what is not is what starts to form the walls of the box that we are trying to think outside of.
College is supposed to be the first step in getting to where you want to be in life. It’s supposed to be the time when all the doors are open for you and you can do and be anything you want. If college is the time when we have the most freedom, then why do we set so many limits on ourselves? For one thing college is expensive! It’s so expensive it seems like there is a stigma against people who pick unrealistic degrees and an even worse stigma against people who can’t pick a degree at all. The word “undeclared” definitely has a poor connotation. We are supposed to find what we are good at and graduate with a degree in it. I know I definitely feel a lot of pressure to not waste time in college—this pressure comes from my parents, my counselors, my peers, but most of all, it comes from me.
The pressure starts before we even enter college. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” is the constant question. In high school I would avoid any conversation that involved talking about what I was going to do with my life. I struggled in classes like Math and science, the skills necessary to get the jobs at the top of the best paying careers’ list. I knew I was never going to become an “Aerospace Engineer” no matter how many tutors I got, and my aptitude tests proved it. What did show up as the careers best suited for me? Artist. Inspirational speaker. None that would make me any money.
My senior year I got the journalist of the year award from my high school newspaper staff. The next day my Dad told me that he read the number one most useless degree to get in college was journalism. I knew that he wasn’t trying to be mean to me by telling me this. My Dad is just a very realistic man. In truth, he would always support me no matter what I wanted to do. Both of my parents are like that and I am very fortunate to have them believe in me so much. I still piled the pressure on myself and began to build the walls of the box around me that I still have today. I entered college knowing the one major I definitely wouldn’t be enrolling in: journalism.
My best friend in high school got a full ride to go to college. She has always wanted to be a linguistics major and study the origins of languages. It’s not something that I would ever be interested in but she has always loved it. In college her major is now accounting. She figures it’s something reliable that she can get a job in; the world is always going to need money and someone to count it. I think it makes her feel good to have a plan that is realistic. I know her parents like the accountant idea a lot more than they like the linguistics idea. As her friend, I want her to do what makes her happy. I really don’t have room to judge, my major is still not journalism.
I guess it comes down to how much we really believe in ourselves. Do we really think we are good enough at something that we can get a degree in it and then make a career out of it? There are some people out there who will pursue their dream no matter what because they know how to think outside of the box inside of the box. They recognize all the amazing opportunities that exist in college and in everyday life and they are willing to go after them. To them, they are not wasting time at all and any of the money they spend going after their dreams is one hundred percent worth it. I think anyone can adopt this attitude we just have to think outside the box inside the box too. College is a time when we are so free that we are not really limited by anything but our own minds. It’s up to us to make the most of what we have and the opportunities that are around us. The first step is getting over the walls that we build ourselves.