Schafer: I’m hyperfocusing on… being happy

Columnist Cameryn Schafer discusses how some young adults sacrifice their dreams to adhere to the outlook set by others.As we grow up, many of us have big aspirations for our future. Adults reinforcing these goals allows children to grow in their dreams. Later down the road, however, young adults feel pressure to adhere to the expectations of others at the cost of their own happiness in life.

Cameryn Schafer

Editor’s Note: This column is a part of a series called “I’m hyperfocusing on…”.

“You’re going to achieve such great things when you’re older!”

Believe it or not, this statement can be detrimental to young adults struggling to find their place in the world. It might be spoken with great intent, and it’ll inspire a boost of confidence in the other person, but we don’t always see the other side of their battles.

My best friend is currently going through the process of changing majors. If you’ve read my bio on the bottom of my other columns, you probably know I’m a collector of majors. I started my freshman year in diet and exercise, then changed to dietetics to drop the kinesiology aspect, and have added more to my program every semester since. I understand why she’s reluctant to switch, and although I don’t have any reservations about it anymore, I wasn’t always that way.

Growing up, my classmates’ parents always reveled to me about what I would be doing once I made it to the real world. In third grade, I was surrounded by exclamations of “You’re going to make it into Harvard!”, “You’ll find the cure to cancer!” and “I can’t wait to see how you change the world one day!”

These encouragements continued throughout my entire childhood. As a junior in high school, I found myself filling out applications to colleges that I only wanted to attend for the sake of meeting the expectations that have always been held over my head. I refused to apply to Iowa State because I was afraid of letting down everyone who had ever told me that I was destined for greatness because Iowa State isn’t an Ivy League.

I’d first seen Iowa State’s gorgeous campus at 9 years old for a state robotics competition, and almost a decade later, it was still stuck in my head and heart. I knew that Iowa State was home, that Ames was where I wanted to be, but I was terrified of being a disappointment. I was so caught up in everybody else’s expectations that I wouldn’t allow myself to be happy. I broke down sobbing the night that I was submitting my application to Yale, and in between my tears, I told my mother, “I just want to go to Iowa State.” She explained to me that meeting nobody’s expectations will make me happier than my own.

I never submitted my application that night, and two days later, I applied for Iowa State. I was so happy when I got in, and I immediately filled out a housing contract, scheduled an official campus visit and planned out everything for my freshman year.

Despite knowing that being a Cyclone was my college dream come true, I felt dirty inside any time I was asked about my college plans. The unenthused “Oh” I got from adults proved to me again and again that my happiness wasn’t enough to achieve anybody else’s goal for my life. I started using the phrase, “I know, I’m just a statistic,” ironically. I had classmates, friends and coworkers attending Iowa State, and claiming to be a statistic helped lighten the conversation for my sake.

Once I got to Iowa State, I was excited about my plans for the upcoming years. As I went through my days, I loved my classes, looked forward to the clubs I was in and laughed with friends at the end of each night. I knew that I had made the right decision for me. I came to realize that my major wasn’t quite getting me to where I wanted to be after graduation. I still lived for my classes, but I decided to change my major for the first time.

As I continued on with my decision, I came to find myself struggling in my new coursework. My new major was difficult, but I was passionate about the new classes, the information I was taking in and the new experiences I was gaining. Once I truly realized my expectations for myself are the only ones that matter for my future, I became comfortable making changes that make me happy. I add majors, minors, clubs and friends because I like the person they make me, not because they make me the person somebody else wants me to be. I have a plan for some parts of my degree, and the other parts are there for my personal benefit rather than career benefits.

My advice to my best friend, and everyone else reading this, is to love who you are and who you are striving to be. Don’t let anybody else set your goals, create your own aspirations and, finally, live a life that makes you happy, however that may be.