By Emily Frisan, Oct. 12, 2021

When asked to define my purpose, I feel suddenly trapped in a dark tunnel. Claustrophobic, all I am equipped with is my higher education as my guiding torch and the hope it will bring me answers somewhere nearby.

One of thousands of first-generation college students at Cal Poly Pomona, there is an unprecedented number of paths I can take. Like my peers, there is no family support to guide us through our college careers, yet it is all that we know.

For some, finding purpose lies in a natural gift. As for myself, I have depended on the desire of finding my life’s purpose to illuminate a directionless path. Growing up I never had a dream job, dream university or any other deep-rooted desire. As someone who has never known what they wanted to be, the lack of guidance makes the feeling of choosing any path seem doubtful. I thought finding my purpose would reveal a passion- something to make life worth living for.

Justin Oo | The Poly Post

Enrolling in Cal Poly Pomona, I have grasped onto its opportunities hoping that I will be funneled onto the track. As a freshman, I thought that university would mean finding a career I love, a romantic partner and generational income to support myself and my loved ones.

When asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?,” I rack the corners of my brain hoping to provide a satisfying and impressive answer not only for who is asking, but for myself. This is the ominous question I hoped to answer with my post-graduate expectations, yet in my senior year I continue to fall short.

The tunnel only became darker, leaving me more alone and confused than ever before.

My problem is that passion is only a feeling of intense enthusiasm toward or a compelling desire for something or someone. This boils down to my dilemma — feelings change.

With every academic year, the importance of my education for a future is engrained into my sense of self. This internalized pressure causes me to question my greater life meaning. What is the point of this academic pursuit, if it hasn’t granted me the guidance I need?

Even without concrete direction, I have developed an attachment to academia over the past 16 years of my life. I have grown strong bonds with my peers and mentors as they push me to transform into a greater person each year I continue.

Still, traveling this tunnel of self-discovery, my torch is raised high, hoping this light will bring answers like moths to a flame. Simply, that isn’t how life works.

My torch is a just a tool and though I am alone, now is the time to spring into action and move forward with what motivates me even if I don’t know where it may lead. Entering my final undergraduate year, I am embracing the beauty of the unknown.

I don’t need to know anything. Instead of being afraid of the dark, maybe the senselessness of it all is the driving force behind moving forward.

With graduation around the corner, there is no guarantee of completion. The pursuit of a degree may not be my magical opportunity of a high-paying job but may illuminate my path just a bit more and clarify my desire for personal and professional fulfillment along the way.

In this tunnel I may have no one lighting the path in front of me, but I will light the torches for those behind. It is up to me to take the first step forward, even in darkness.

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