THE BLOG
10/20/2014 10:00 am ET Updated Dec 20, 2014

It's Okay to Know (or Not Know) How You Want to Shape Your Life

For some inexplicable reason, adults expect us to make life-altering decisions like where we're going to spend four years of our lives and drop nearly a quarter of a million dollars in tuition when we're in high school, but they laugh at us when we say we know what we want from life or what our ultimate goals are. Granted, not everyone knows what they want, and what we want has the possibility to change (and probably will). But the same applies for colleges -- adults expect us to commit to one place, but many people will transfer and switch schools. What's with the double standards?

Yes, we probably will change our goals and wants many times in life. That's okay. However, that doesn't give anyone the right to belittle our dreams. We're told we're too young to know anything, and we're treated like little girls who want to become princesses one day: a pat on the head, a chuckle and a little "That's cute, dear, now move along" from adults who probably don't know where they're going to be in 10 years themselves.

The part that baffles me most, though, is that I never try to claim that what I want now is a finalized list and that I know exactly where my life is going and exactly what I'm going to end up with. This is just what I want now for my future; is that so bad? The plain truth is that I don't know what I want from life or what I want it to show me.

I know I'll change my mind and discover surprising, new opportunities. I'll take turns and detours where I wasn't supposed to; I'll stall in certain areas and fly through others. I'm okay with that.

That doesn't mean I don't have at least a solid idea of where I want to direct my life.

I want to help kids with cancer and become a pediatric oncologist. I don't know if I'll pursue both a MD and a phD or just a MD because I don't know how much more schooling I'll be willing to go to 10 years from now. I don't know if I'll want to focus on being a doctor or if I'll want to balance being a doctor alongside being an active research scientist.

I want kids (one day), and I think I'll want my family to be big. I've always admired big, close-knit families. I don't know what my future spouse would want, though, or if we'd be able to have kids. I know I'm willing to compromise and that I'd be totally willing to adopt -- even if I had my own kids.

I want a modest life, even if I had an extravagant income at my disposal. I think it's pointless to invest time and money into acquiring material possessions when I could help hundreds of other people instead.

I want a love that lasts -- even though the statistical odds are against me. I'm a romantic at heart, and I know that even if I end up contributing to the divorce rate one day, I'll have done everything I could to save this future marriage.

I know that I want to lead a fulfilled life. I don't want to end up on my death bed wishing I'd spent more time with my family or wishing that I'd used my limited days on Earth in a useful way. I know that life won't always be fulfilling or hopeful, but I want to always strive and work towards that goal.

In the end, the foundational things I claim to want in life are still up for change and compromise. My wants are mostly just ways I want to direct my life -- places I want to lead myself towards achieving. These are overarching backbones with no maps or paved roads telling me how, exactly, to get there. I don't know the kind of person I'll marry one day or how I'll raise my future children. I don't know if I will actually end up pursuing a double major in biology and chemistry with a minor in Spanish next year. I don't know where I'll end up living or how many heartbreaks I'll stumble through. I don't know how many kids I'll have or if I'll change my mind and study abroad during college. I don't even know if I'll ever fill up my "dreams jar" or work through all the "one day" lines I've tossed into it.

That's a lot of uncertainty. I'll be the first to admit that I have a lot of things to figure out. I'll be the first to admit that things will change, I will change and my visions will change. But that doesn't undermine the foundational wants I have or the fact that I have a general plan of how I want to mold my life. I know the basics of the kind of life I want to lead. Honestly, I think that's all I'll ever really know until I get there, to that far-off time in the future we're forever fantasizing about.

Even with all those unknowns, I'm not letting them -- or anyone else -- keep me from chasing after my dreams, my wants. Just because there's a possibility I'll change my mind one day isn't justification for not pursuing my current dreams at all. I think there's a negative connotation with "wanting" something, but the way I see it, my dreams and goals are simply my wants. They're the things I want to achieve and discover.

There's nothing wrong with knowing what you want in life, and there's nothing wrong with pursuing those goals.*

*within reason, of course (i.e. hurting others is NOT a good way to pursue dreams)