As I was finishing high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do going forward. Sure, college was the idea, but I could not tell you where on earth I wanted to attend, much less what I wanted to study while I was there. I had some ideas – maybe I could become an English teacher, or get a humanities degree of some kind. There were plenty of institutions within driving distance of where I lived, I could even live at home and save some money. These were safe options, and that’s all I really valued at that time. Safety was all I had ever really known or wanted to understand. Growing up in a small town, you learn to hold on to what you can comprehend, and personally, I never really strayed too far outside of that before coming to college. I soon learned, however, that uncertainty can be a very valuable experience, and getting outside your comfort zone can open your world in ways that you never imagined.
I toured a couple schools with my mom, going in with no prior knowledge about them other than what I had heard from friends. Missouri State, being one of the two institutions we visited, gave me a feeling that, at the time, I couldn’t quite describe. The moment our tour began I could feel a twinge of what I had been longing for for years: a sense of community. It’s kind of ironic, really. Everyone told me that I’d get lost in such a big place – “Just a face in the crowd,” they told me. I didn’t get that sense at all upon visiting for the first time, and what I found much later is that this “big community” would become a home to me, and one of the first times I felt like I really belonged somewhere. Though I couldn’t put it into words at that time, I knew what I was feeling was valid, and I decided that I wanted to come here in the fall. People ask me why I came to Missouri State, and honestly, I usually just say, “It was a vibe.” It’s a vibe that changed my life.
So I knew where the next chapter of my life was going to take place. Awesome. That still didn’t answer the question of what I wanted to do while I was there. I wouldn’t figure that out until a few semesters in. That said, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This may be a topic for another blog post, but I think it can be so incredibly valuable to be an exploratory major in college. I say this for a couple reasons. I firmly believe that getting a degree is only one of the reasons why someone attends college. You come here to find yourself, to find the people that’ll become your lifelong friends, maybe even the person you’ll start a family with someday. You come here to get plugged into a world totally unlike the one you knew previously. Because I was undecided, I had the chance to really immerse myself in that journey. I was also lucky to have amazing support from my advisor and teachers (shout-out to the Academic Advisement Center!), who helped me every step of the way until I finally settled on a degree program.
One of the biggest anxieties I had about coming to college was making friends. Was I going to fit in? Will people like me? These are questions I think every incoming freshman asks themselves at some point. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I went anyway. I didn’t know anybody, and I think that was a good thing. I got to meet new people in a new place, and that is an experience I think everyone should go through at least once. I didn’t know if I’d fit in, and that taught me that people could really learn to like me because of who I was, and not just because they had to be around me.
It’s okay to not know. It can even be a great thing to not know. It’s in the not knowing that the process of self-discovery takes place, and that is what college is all about. Let yourself get lost every once in awhile, and you might just end up somewhere that you didn’t know you needed to be.
(Parker Mason is SOAR leader and a 2019-2020 orientation assistant for New Student and Family Programs.)