Impassioned. Courageous. Determined. Furious.
When I sit across the suits at an interview table and they ask me where I see myself in five years, I tell them, “I don’t know.”
I proceed to explain, “And here’s why that’s a better answer than anyone who comes in here and says they want to be a MD for Goldman in half a decade. I’m okay with not knowing, because I’m honest with myself. Because I know I’m smart and a fast learner and can pick up almost anything. I hem and haw and run through walls, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I know where I’m going. Being okay with not knowing has groomed me to be adaptable, amenable to change in mercurial circumstances that may present themselves in the office. If I were sitting in your seats, I wouldn’t hire someone who comes in here and tells me that he has his life planned out around investment banking for the next 10 years, because life happens and life changes and what’s more important is that a person is able to adapt, not plan. So to answer your question, I’m really not sure where I’ll be in five years, but this job will lead me to it.”
This answer has generally been off the beaten path enough to secure me internship offers, but to be completely frank, it scares the hell out of me. It’s brutally honest and has convinced two trained corporate HR’s that I’m confident in my direction, but I’m not sure I’m as convinced myself.
It’s absolutely frightening that I’m 19 but not yet sure where I will be in five years. That I don’t really know what I want to do. That I don’t have a consolidated passion I wake up working toward and go to sleep contemplative over. And maybe this is all normal. Perhaps unless you’re a pure-bred pediatric oncologist who watched a surgery and had some divine proclivity toward healthcare, we all more or less don’t know what we want to do when we grow up.
I’ve heard that this is the gap my collegiate education and life is purposed to bridge. I’ve heard that such is the intent of my ‘liberal arts’ education, as they call it. I’d like to believe so.
In university, I am a finance major learning about accounting and securities while my liberal arts studies enlightens me on Nasser’s Egypt, computational modeling of the game of life, and Darwinian theory. This seems right, that I’m at an institution which promotes a spherical system of education allowing me to self-edify about everything around me. But, it’s still scary that none of these have piqued my interest into a true passion.
An analogy takes me to Istanbul, Turkey, where I spent the first ten days of this summer with a friend from Pennsylvania. Our luck delivered us to Istanbul on the day of the mine explosion in Soma, Turkey that suffocated and burned over 300 mine workers. The next night, we walked to the historical Taksim Square—two minutes away from our hostel—where protesters lined up, yelling and moving to fight for worker rights. They were met on the outskirts of Taksim Square by riot police equipped with riot shields and teargas and water hoses. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea to venture out for a gyro on the evening of a Turkish protest, but what I saw was unforgettable nevertheless.
Teargas is no joke—it’s what you would imagine the treacherous fog that chased Jennifer Lawrence in the second installment of The Hunger Games to be like, but in real life. Riot police tossed canisters, and protesters tossed them back. Water tanks hosed down protesters, while protesters shielded their faces and ran for shelter. I ran for shelter as well, which took me to the shop of an incredibly friendly watchmaker who let me hide in his shop. We looked out into the streets of Taksim Square. Into this magnificent city of Istanbul, where past meets present with nothing in between. Where it was now all doused by teargas and water hoses and screaming and yelling and fighting. The protesters were bulls. En route to what they believe, to what they want, to what they think is better for the people of Turkey. Impassioned. Courageous. Determined. Furious.
In luxury, in America, we forget the endless powers of passion. There are people half-way across the globe fighting for what they believe is righteous and beautiful, while many of my incredibly intelligent classmates and I are so tempted to jump into careers that offer security, both in lifestyle and finance. Somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that the hundreds of thousands of hours we’ll be spending on our jobs should be toward some conducive end. Toward a waning candlestick light that is individually marked for us to brighten through our careers—disgustingly romantic, I know. Perhaps there doesn’t have to be a gap between security and passion. Perhaps the goal of my education all along is to bridge this gap.
I have absolutely no idea where I’ll be in five years, but I only hope that I’ll find it worth it to dodge teargas canisters and evade water streams in an impassioned fury to make the change I believe in.