The first time anyone in my family saw Lehigh was on a late summer day in August before my freshman year.
We were on our way to visit my dad’s childhood friend in D.C. and decided to make a pitstop at Lehigh.
Driving from St. Louis to D.C is about 13 hours. Some families might have opted to make the drive a two-day affair, but my dad’s got a passion for saving money and a can-do attitude, so we decided to drive it straight so we could avoid paying for a hotel.
Our drive ended up taking closer to 20 hours, including stops along the way. We arrived at Lehigh somewhere around dawn. We were hungry so we stopped at the Dunkin’ on the South Side.
I picked up a vegetarian egg sandwich and we drove up to campus. We parked in the lot right next to the LUPD station, had breakfast in the car, and stretched our legs. The sun was just beginning to rise.
I hopped out of the car with a newfound confidence knowing high school was over, and I said to myself, “I’m going to run this school.”
In that moment I couldn’t have been more wrong, but more on that later.
We spent that morning at Lehigh, and then it was off to D.C. The next time I’d see campus would be as a student. When I got to school I remember being obsessed with getting the most out of my four years. I was consumed with the desire to make the right choices and to choose the correct path.
I joined every club I could — I went to lectures at Zoellner and I tried to meet new people every day. Second semester came and I was confronted with what seemed like a momentous decision.
Greek or nah?
I was scared, but I decided Greek life wasn’t for me. At the time, I didn’t know if I could have fun at this school not being in a frat. I wondered if I’d lose the friends I’d already made to Greek Life if I didn’t join.
One day in the spring after rush ended, I found myself in a conversation with an upperclassmen I’d gotten to know through checking out his fraternity. When I told him I passed on Greek life, he laughed and said, “At least you’ll have a good GPA.”
The arrogance this kid had was astounding. Nonetheless, his condescending statement forced me to consider whether I’d obliterated my opportunity at a social life.
I walked away from that conversation and lived my life. As I continued to get involved around campus and invest in relationships, I found out it’s possible to enjoy Lehigh, and even thrive here, without being in a greek organization.
It’s been a journey filled with good days and bad days, but I can say with confidence, that kid had no idea what he was talking about.
As that phase came and went, I emerged from my first year happy with my trajectory. Lurking around the corner, however, was another decision that would define my college experience.
I looked up as a sophomore and realized that I hated my major. I couldn’t focus on homework and I detested going to class. At that point I didn’t feel like I was getting the most out of my education, so I had to see if I could get school to make sense again.
I had to admit that I was in the wrong major. I went from someone with a plan and a vision, to someone without one. The social questions that marked my freshman year were hard to answer, but when it came to questioning career path and life’s trajectory, I felt a fear I’d never experienced.
If you’d have asked me during my family’s road trip to D.C. where I’d be in five years, I would’ve confidently rattled off a bunch of stuff.
My desired career path, the city I expected to be living in — the whole nine yards. At that point in my life I took pride in merely having an answer, whether I truly believed in it or not.
I didn’t know anything about anything but I thought I did.
I eventually found the right major, and I’ve learned a lot more along the way. But in a lot of ways, I’m actually leaving this place with more questions than answers, and I think that means I succeeded.
Don’t get me wrong, vision is important, but sometimes I worry for the young adults who can rattle off their planned life’s trajectory. At this point in our lives, I believe anyone who thinks they can project where they’ll end up with any semblance of certainty is lying.
Having an answer doesn’t change the fact that there is no right answer. It’s important we think through the decisions we’re making now, but I think it’s more important that we react as best we can to the chaos that is real life, and enjoy the ride.
Quentin Tarantino once said a good story unfolds rather than reveals itself, and if I had to guess, I’d say that’s also the makings of a good life.
As a senior looking back, I thank God I eventually forgot about the misguided idea I had in that parking lot. In my 3.75 years on campus, I did my best with the hands I was dealt with and carved out my own path.
There is a lot I don’t know. There’s a lot I couldn’t know even if I tried, but I’m hopeful for the future and I’m comforted by what this place taught me.
There is no right way.