Developing Purpose as a College Student

Photo by  Matthew Kwong  on  Unsplash

Developing Purpose as a College Student

Over the past four years of college life, I’ve suffered the same existential crisis as my fellow degree-pursuers. While we study in preparation for what we envision as our future, it’s easy to get lost in our current life purpose - droning on in an endless cycle between work, study and play.

There are often times when a greater calling comes from within - sparked by the stories we hear of people our age achieving unbelievable milestones of success and defying the engrained expectation to live a mediocre life.

Three years ago I sat in my dorm room, having just finished the entire series of Scrubs after a week of bunking lectures (and a few tutorials). It had occurred to me at that point that I still had two-thirds of my college life left and with nothing to my name, it felt kind of sad knowing that I could do better - but didn’t try to do so.

I tried to get up on my feet and start looking for opportunities - initially it was tough, seeing as I had zero experience (and zero understanding of what I wanted to do!), but eventually found a role in a social impact society at college that helped me fuse my passion for design and my understanding of social impact together. My time there exposed me to a plethora of inspirational stories from driven, young adults only a few years older me (but those few years made a lot of difference). They imparted various points of wisdom on me and told me things that they had regretted not doing earlier, which made me realise what I should have worked on from the beginning.

As I utilised my self-criticising nature to develop my internal feedback loop, I gradually became more open-minded and confident about reaching out to opportunities I once wouldn’t have even considered, allowing me to understand where my passions lie and develop my own personal life compass. It slowly began opening more doors and more pathways to explore till eventually I had the opportunity to run my own social enterprise with an amazing co-director.

Albeit a small organisation, being part of our little team of five has provided me an overwhelming sense of purpose and community, having the opportunity to work with local change-makers and charities to help make a difference here in Melbourne. My exploration of self, learning new skills and understanding core industries that shape our society, purely through the idea of ‘giving it a shot‘, has landed me in something that now defines me and makes me want to get up just that little bit earlier.

In the pursuit of happiness, we define it now as being able to skip class, go have a few drinks and binge the next show on Netflix. However being able to bring purpose into the balance with all the pleasures we enjoy create this long term fulfilment that warms our soul and drives us to do the work we do. I would compare it to just being happy eating Maccas now, or having a decent, somewhat healthy meal that will last you just that little bit longer. It may not mean much now, but once you develop an appreciation for it you won’t ever let it go.

It’s difficult to have a clear-cut vision of your future and know exactly how to achieve it - no one does, but building that mentality to try (and sometimes fail) opens you to opportunities you wouldn’t have even considered from the get-go. College is the perfect time to experiment. It’s like being in a little algae plate knowing that if something you try out goes wrong and doesn’t suit you, you can just scrap it and do it again - that is the luxury we have to learn to utilise.

Matthew Kwong