Titi Nguyen/Podcast Editor

When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. And I also wanted to be a veterinarian. And a singer, and a gymnast, and a physicist, and a dancer, and a lawyer and a restaurant owner. Oh, and the President of the United States … and Diego from “Go, Diego, Go!” 

When you’re a little kid, everyone thinks it’s adorable and inspiring when you have a thousand things you want to become. Then, as you get older, the conversation shifts from excitement about everything you’re passionate about to the huge question, “So what are you actually gonna do with your life?” Growing up, I thought if I could just figure out my “Life Goal” — the picture-perfect ideal version of my life or career — then all I would have to do is line up the stepping stones just right to lead me there. But I’ve been learning that life is rarely so linear. 

Going into college, I had no clue what I wanted to do career-wise. I felt like nothing was going to be the perfect fit for my life goal that would encompass everything I loved and cared about. I didn’t want to line up all my stepping stones to an end goal that wasn’t 100% perfect, so I felt sort of stuck. Looking back, I think what made me feel that way was that I was imposing such a finality and singularity on my life goal. 

My time at Emory has been somewhat of a journey to reframe that perspective. One thing that drew me to Emory in the first place was how passionate all the students were when I toured. I felt like everyone I ran into was eager to tell me about the research they were doing, the class they were taking with the best professor ever or their student organization that was literally changing the world. I loved seeing so many people who were so excited to be exactly where they were, doing exactly what they were doing. So when I arrived here, I thought maybe I’d try to tap into that energy. I enrolled in whatever classes looked interesting — not putting too much pressure on figuring out a major quite yet. I took an English class where we studied the interplay between literature and science, a theater class where we studied theater for social justice, a dance class where we learned to choreograph our own material and a whole bunch of other classes that weren’t necessarily stepping stones in some grand, linear path, but that brought me joy and excitement in the moment. And I think that perspective — seeking out things that drive you, that fuel you, that make you feel like there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing in this moment — that’s how you really find “What you want to do with your life.”

For me, I found that that thing was theater, specifically musical theater performance. I took that first theater class, and then another one and another one, until I realized that I couldn’t envision a version of my life where I wasn’t performing. So I’m going all in pursuing acting, but I’m also not trying to line up 1,000 stepping stones of how to get exactly to one singular version of success. Instead, I’m focusing on seeking out those things that energize, drive, and fulfill me and letting those things define what success is. It’s not a predetermined, linear path of stepping stones to a singular Life Goal, but a vast, open field of opportunities that I am lucky enough to explore and find out where they’ll lead.

Hannah Morrison is from Old Lyme, Connecticut, and double-majored in theater studies and philosophy, politics, law. At Emory, she served as assistant music director for Dooley Noted A Cappella, and she performed in a variety of plays and musicals over the past four years. She was also a senior leader at Bread Emory, a free coffeehouse and campus ministry that works to create a welcoming community for students. This summer, Hannah is excited to be performing at the Ohio Outdoor Historical Drama Association for their summer season. After that, she plans to move to Chicago to start her career in musical theater acting.