Feeling lost? Look within, your childhood self knows you best

Photo of a child reaching for colored pencils
Nenad Stojkovic/Creative Commons

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Amid the chaos of the world and the constant buzz of information we receive, it’s natural to feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions. This can be especially challenging if you’re still trying to determine your major or career path. If your ears are strained from trying to distinguish your life’s calling amid all the noise, maybe it would be best to start by listening to your childhood self.

Close your eyes and try to remember how 5-year-old you would have responded to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It is likely that your younger self knows you better than any college adviser or professor ever could.

If you’re thinking that you should not subject such an important decision to the whims of your 5-year-old self, you might take solace in remembering that what you study in college is not permanent, nor does it encompass your entire future. Eight in 10 of your university peers will change their major at least once, and the average college student changes their major three times! Even after all of that, only about 27% of college graduates end up with a job related to their major.

Very early in my life, I knew I wanted to become a writer. As a kid, I loved reading books more than anything else. I naturally began to idolize the authors who wrote them. They seemed to be capable of magic as they weaved stories together from the fabric of their own thoughts. I wondered how they did it, and I hoped to one day find out for myself. After wanting to do lots of other things in between, I eventually found my way back to my love of reading and writing in college. While plenty is still blurry, the joy of writing remains my focal point.

It seems that children possess wisdom that adults often do not fully recognize. Remembering your whimsical past can provide a valuable lens for your future. Children are naturally curious and tend to constantly question the whys and hows of the world. Kids experience things for the first time and approach life with minimal expectations. They are driven by sheer curiosity, not by a desire to impress or excel. The questions you asked as a child might reveal where your deepest interests lie, far beneath the surface of everyday college life.

Moreover, children have not yet been told who they should be; they are still themselves in the truest sense. I like to think that we each still carry our inner child with us, layered beneath the self that we now show to the world. The aptitudes, interests and curiosities of our childhood lie buried under the surface, but they still exist nonetheless.

Perhaps you’ve been crushed by the pressure of demanding academic standards, financial burdens or harsh discouragement. Maybe you’ve been told that you aren’t capable of science, math or art. But your childhood self knew that you were capable of anything, and that is whom you should listen to.

So ask yourself, what are you curious about? What excites you? What gives you a childlike sense of wonder?

Contact Sarah Siegel at [email protected].