Edit Desk: An obligation to yourself

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Miguel Cole

Love versus obligation.

It’s a tale as old as time. A decision that many are faced with at different checkpoints in their lives. A time when people have to ask themselves: Am I doing what I want to do?

I have found this to be one of the hardest questions to ask myself.

Out of fear of causing one to completely unroot their lives for something that lacks certainty, it is a nerve-wracking decision that has many uncontrolled variables.

The question asks a great deal from people presented with it. There is so much to be uncovered in such a loaded question: ‘Am I doing what I want — what makes me happy?’

‘Am I willing to disregard all the work I’ve done up to this point?’ 

‘Am I willing to take a leap a faith that might be a terrible decision?’

I, too, have dealt with these questions.

I had my entire life planned out to be a forensic scientist. I participated in medical programs and internships all throughout high school and I was good at it. I thought I’d enjoy it for the rest of my life.

But once I actually got on the pre-med track, I, in short, realized I hated it. I couldn’t see myself doing this for the next 11 years. That is when the infamous question presented itself to me.

The fear of what my friends and family may think of me and what my future might look like made me feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.

It forced me to question, ‘Do I continue to follow the path that has been chosen for me out of obligation? Or should I finally cut the cord and find a path for myself?’

Now, if you are doing something that you love but frustrates you beyond compare, this does not apply. One shouldn’t back out of something they love just because it’s challenging. This is for those who hate what they’re doing but feel as though it is their duty.

Different people will have different answers to this one question, and that is their decision.

But I implore you, those feeling trapped in a job or a major or any other commitment that impacts your life on a whole, can you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life? Are you willing to close your window of opportunity for something that doesn’t cause you joy?

There are few times in our lives that gift us the opportunity to make a change, but it’s the fear of change that stops us from even giving that window a second look.

Everyone back home had expected me to become the family doctor. I had so many people who put so much time and effort to help me along the track to become just that. So how do you tell those people that it’s not something you see for yourself?

I felt as though I had an obligation to those people, but I had to realize that I also had an obligation to myself. It felt like betraying my community, which made the decision so much harder for me.

I then realized that obligation was an imaginary element that I had forced upon myself. That I could take the leap and just hope that people would understand.

I decided to change my entire life plan while I still had the opportunity to do so. And I am happier for it.

Now, I understand that for some, obligations are final and do not have the privilege of wiggle room. However, if you have the ability to follow your dreams, maybe you still can. It is a frightful time, but it’ll all be worth it if you love what you do.

Sometimes we are forced into boxes, but sometimes we put ourselves in there. We draw our lines in the sand and say we could never cross them. The only person stopping you is you.

Don’t choose a life you feel you’re obligated to live. Live a life you want to live.

Miguel Cole, ’21, is an assistant lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]

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