Don’t fret if your path doesn’t match one of Euclid’s perfect, straight lines.
Euclid’s first postulate of planar geometry states that a straight line can be drawn from any two points. Postulates state what is, not what may be or what can be proven. Therefore we have to accept the postulate as true with certainty.
This certainty is beautiful — every infinitesimal part of mathematics is absolute, clean-cut and definitive. I’d like to think there’s a direct parallel between the first postulate and daily human life.
Ideally we’d be able to follow this straight Euclidean line taking us from birth to death with absolute, clean-cut and definitive certainty. Life would also be easier if we ourselves were definite and certain about the choices we make.
Unfortunately life is rarely, if ever, a straight line. Although we’re supposed to accept Euclid’s postulate with certainty, I’m going to amend it for the sake of my analogy and say that any line, straight or not, exists between two points.
I am neither definite nor certain; the line between my life’s two points looks nothing even remotely like y = x or even y = x^2. My life is the inconsistent twin sister of the sinusoid expression y = –|x[sin(x)]|.
Euclidean geometry aside, I genuinely struggle with decision-making. During high school, I was terrified of people who knew exactly which college they wanted to attend, what they wanted to major in and where they wanted to work after college.
Although I was well aware that my high school was very competitive, I still often felt lost next to my peers. I changed my college application list every three days and my anticipated major every four.
Meanwhile, I knew of students who’d been preparing for college applications since middle school (Middle school!) and who’d planned extracurriculars or internships that would land them in their respective preferred schools.
I’d (naively) thought that packing my bags and leaving California would be a rite of passage to a brand new me that was more decisive and certain about her goals in life. I had essentially discovered and pursued my passions in high school. To me, college was simply an extension of that process.
My peers posted pictures of their four-year plans on their private Instagram accounts and Snapchat stories (That scared me, since I had worked out my final course schedule a few hours before registration opened), and I felt obligated to attempt to do the same.
To encourage exploration, Hopkins doesn’t allow freshmen to declare majors, but it seemed like a majority of students in my year already knew and had a head start on me. Instead of fumbling around with what they wanted to study, they had the next four years planned down to the minute.
I lacked certainty in my future then, and I still lack it today. I don’t know for sure what majors I want to pursue, nor do I know my post-graduation plans. And I wish I could say that I’m content with this ambiguity, but I’m still searching for the silver lining that accompanies this approach.
Maybe for the longest time in high school I didn’t have the capacity to decide where I wanted to apply and what I wanted to study. But this uncertainty helped me narrow my college options down to the school where I knew I would be happiest.
I might not know which career path(s) I want to take in the future, but I think taking my freshman year to explore my options is actually better than getting a “head start” by leaping into a major and committing to it.
And I really don’t know much about what I’m doing. But I do know that I want to prioritize happiness — even if that means taking time to figure out what brings me joy.
You don’t need to know with certainty what next steps you have to take or the plans you need to make. Yes, being certain and decisive makes life easier to plan and gives a confidence boost, but in the end, will it matter?
A line — whether it’s a sinusoid, parabola or a simple linear function — will always get you from point A to point B.
And it is the twists and the curves, the cusps and discontinuities, the seemingly limitless and infinite stretches that make the journey all the more interesting.