Learning to be okay with uncertainty
I don’t know what I want to do after undergrad, but I’ve come to learn a few things from it
Graphic By Esra Rakab / Production Coordinator
Back in Grade 12, when I was applying to university, I applied to 11 different programs — all in science or engineering. I was uncertain about what exactly I wanted to do and what university I wanted to go to, but I was sure that I wanted to do something within the STEM field (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Fast forward to September 2017 and I had officially started my undergraduate degree in health sciences at McMaster University.
Although I still had an interest in engineering and other programs like kinesiology, I thought that health sciences was a good fit due to its flexibility with electives. In addition, I had considered becoming a doctor — and didn’t most people in this program become a doctor? While I was right about the latter, the idea of becoming a doctor was only an idea that was floating around in my brain at the moment.
However, things came up. I realized that medical school, unfortunately, wasn’t accessible to disabled students. So what was next on my list? To be honest, when I came to this realization in my first and second years, I wasn’t sure what was next. But I had the rest of my undergraduate degree ahead of me, so I shouldn’t have to worry about it, right?
Unfortunately for me, I was very worried. It seemed as if everyone in my program knew exactly what they were going to do — they were going to be a doctor. They were going to write their medical college admissions test after their second year and apply to medical schools in their third. If they didn’t get in that year, they’d apply in their fourth year.
To be surrounded by people who know exactly what they want to do when you’re just struggling to have your head above water is terrifying. I felt the need to still take courses I didn’t like in order to maintain a high grade point average (just in case I changed my mind about med school, of course). All I wanted to have was some sort of stability, some goal to aspire to. If that wasn’t med school, then I wanted to know what career I would be pursuing.
The thing is, I hadn’t been sure of pursuing any career — even in high school, I was so uncertain of what program I wanted to do. I picked health sciences on a whim. So by now, you think I would be okay with uncertainty, right?
Uncertainty is still hard for me. Not knowing what goal to pursue can be scary for many people. But, I’m going to graduate very soon and my perspective has changed a lot. Although I’m still coming to terms with being okay with uncertainty, I have learned a couple of things.
The first thing is: do things because you enjoy them. Take courses you enjoy, not because you think you should take them. Don’t take that microeconomics course if it’s not what you’re really interested in doing. Take courses that you like, even if they aren’t “a part of” your program.
I took an English course this year because I thought it looked interesting, not because it was a requirement for a potential career. While it is important to look out for your future, doing prerequisites isn’t the be-all end-all.
The English course I took ended up being one of my favourite courses I’ve taken and led me to meet a really cool instructor that I actually met to talk about potentially pursuing a master’s degree in English. By taking a course I enjoyed, I opened a career path I may not have considered before now.
Secondly, it’s okay to not have your future mapped out. If you decide you don’t want to become a certain profession, even if you have it all planned out and are about to graduate, it’s okay to change your mind. Don’t go into something because you feel pressured by your parents or other students.
I don’t know, maybe I still will become a doctor. I don’t know what lies ahead in my future. I’ve considered occupational therapy, physiotherapy, law, becoming a professor, social work, nursing, journalism and more.
My idea of what I want to do changes very frequently, but that’s okay because I want to take my time so that I’m 100 per cent certain that I like my future career. Even if my mind changes after I enter a certain profession, though, that’s okay too.
Being okay with uncertainty is hard, but sometimes uncertainty helps you figure out what you truly want to do. We should learn to embrace uncertainty more — after all, it’s completely normal not to know what you want to do.