“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”
This famous comedian brings to light the struggle of figuring out who to be, and how to be, in the world. I think you are trying to find your uniqueness. At 19 you are simply in the throes of you first identity crisis.
You are in college, which is the right place for identity development because it allows you to sample. And, as hard to believe as it might be, sampling, NOT making a decision for a period of time, is the solution. You are simply not ready to commit to a way of being. The only consistency is that you are always sampling. It is a very natural part of human development. Just for fun, I thought I would list the jobs I had before settling on becoming a psychologist.
- Truck Driver
- Factory worker
- Electrician’s helper
- Auto assembly line worker
- Toilet bowl assembler (No kidding)
- Lawn caretaker
- Newspaper distributor
- Comedy writer
- Stand-up comic
- Retail salesman
Oh, and should I start with majors? Physical Education, English, Photography…
The point is all of this began in my teens and through my 20s, and each of these had a type of calling (okay, maybe not the toilet bowl thing.) But it faded once something else grabbed me, then that became the identity flavor of the month.
Erik Erikson has proposed a solution to this struggle, which may be important. He believed that young adulthood was not the best time to make a life-long commitment, and offered something called a psycho-social moratorium. In other words, give yourself a break. A time to sample several things without making a firm commitment. Try them on for size with some experiences, and see where it takes you. True identity evolves after we have challenged ourselves sufficiently. We need to have a struggle in order to understand more about what we are willing to commit to. Who we become is informed by who we don’t want to be.
See yourself as sampling and don’t pathologize what is happening. Seventy percent of students change their major after they have declared it: It comes with the territory. Give your commitments time to ripen.
On the other side of the coin use some parameters for managing yourself properly. Don’t take more than a year of sampling at the most, then pick a direction that draws you. See if it holds you. One of the things that underlies your list of attempts is brevity. Find out what interests you long enough to make a sustainable commitment. The idea of implementing a moratorium is what you have been doing naturally. Don’t try anything with the sense that it is forever. Start with the attitude that you are going to see if the allure is maintained. The university counseling center can help you take some tests for career counseling that can help you narrow down both what you may like, and what you may be good at.
And this isn’t just for the teens and early twenties.
What we know from many researchers and is that we go through an identity crisis about every seven years. Gail Sheehy, the New York Times best-selling author, has written about this extensively.
Since you chose physics and Judaism as possible directions I thought it might be appropriate to end with encouragement from this former patent clerk:
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Wishing you patience and peace,