Self vs. Society?

So far, college has been about figuring out what I want. What degree to pursue, what clubs to join, what positions to seek. Who I want as friends, what kind of person I want to be, what kind of job I want to have.

Every day teaches me about myself. I constantly seek new experiences, knowing that’s the best way for me to grow. Two years ago I chose to live on South Campus with other freshmen (despite the longer walk to campus) because I value community. Every semester I take a diverse combination of classes because I am trying to figure out what I’m most interested in and what I’m best at. I regularly evaluate the time I spend on extracurriculars, wanting to be absolutely certain that I’m doing what I love and making meaningful contributions to causes I’m passionate about. I sometimes have to stifle my compulsion to apply for everything, because I know there’s a balance between quality and quantity when it comes to seizing opportunity.

Despite all these efforts to, as Thoreau put it, “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” I often struggle with a sense of desperate anxiety over finding a satisfying career path. My magazine internship, for example, reminds me every week that although I would really enjoy working for a publication like this (working for this publication, especially) I would still wither a little bit every day that I spent sitting in front of a computer.

My internship at Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans last summer taught me how much I love being outdoors on a regular basis and showed me that I’m good with customer service (diplomacy skills learned by growing up with four similar-aged siblings). So I sought an internship this summer that was hands-on and out-of-office. I found one that I’m thrilled about, but is it a realistic long-term job?

I want to contribute to society as much as I can, and I don’t think that’s accomplished by spending my winter break backpacking through Central America (by the way, Dad, I won’t be home for Christmas this year). Why is it so hard to reconcile my personal, selfish desires (frolic outdoors! explore the world!) with my sense of social responsibility (save the orphans! cure AIDS!)?

If anyone has a solution, don’t hesitate to share. I’m turning 20 in a few days; maybe this is my quarter-life crisis.