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Stressing As A Senior: What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do With Your Future

It’s the second week of October and while others are frolicking around drinking pumpkin spiced lattes and breaking out their boot cuffs, here’s where my brain is at: I’m realizing October means midterms are around the corner, and November will quickly turn into December and then the holiday break will fly by and soon all college seniors will be staring down a dark tunnel with a light so bright at the end we’re all being blinded.

I know, normally, the light is a good thing. A “looking forward to this” thing, but this light, this glaring, bottomless chasm of “we need to buy eclipse glasses for this” light, is a looming sign of graduation. The END. Second semester is it. The last haul. The last hurrah. The final lap before entering into the inevitable stage of adulthood and forty hour work weeks.

Some of you may be like, “ok, this girl is getting way ahead of herself, we totally have tons of time.” Oh.

DO WE? REALLY??

Do you remember when you were a freshman? A Sophomore? How about four months ago when you were still a Junior?

Yeah, that summer flew by and all the while I was saying to myself, “Oh Amanda, you have plenty of time, just have fun it will all fall into place.”

Fast forward to now: most people I know have had one or more internships, know the exact company they want to work for and they dress like they came out of the business section of a Banana Republic catalogue.

Me on the outside: yeah, this is cool, I got it, one day at a time (actually true), no worries, I have it together.

Me on the inside: OMG WHAT THE ACTUAL F*** AM I GOING TO DO WHEN I GRADUATE.

HOW do I..? WHAT do I..? WHERE do I..?

I’m freaking so bad I don't even know what to ask to finish those sentences. 

Thinking the same thing? It's cool. We are going to figure this sh** out. Okay?

Let me break it down into a few steps for you.

 

1. When in the midst of an existential crisis, take a deep, mind clearing breath...then, eat some comfort food.

You can’t make yourself not freak out or have feelings, BUT you can calm yourself down and try to gain a new perspective (we aren’t trying to gain perspective yet so don’t feel behind). Right now it’s all about getting those negative, scary, stressful thoughts out of your head. Personally I love a good dance party for one and a bubble bath. I eat comfort food all of the time so I have to take extra measures when I’m really stressed out.

Not sure what calms you down? Looking for more ideas?

-Make a playlist of your favorite songs and focus on the lyrics/tempo when you listen.

-Bubble bath. I already mentioned it, but listen, that ish is gold.

-Get some coloring books or drawing paper and USE THEM. You can totally get cheap supplies at the Dollar Tree.

-Go outdoors, take a walk through the park or to the mall if that’s your cup of tea.

-Enjoy malls? Retail therapy, baby! Short on cash? Window shopping is just as fun! Grab a pal and hit the shops.

The list could go on….Reading? Exercising? (if that’s you then I salute you). Baking? Writing? Painting? Comedy clips on YouTube? If none of that is your thing then just think about what your outlet is!

 

2. Just freak out.

I know that’s almost the opposite of what I just told you to do but listen, sometimes you just have to let things out. I NEVER recommend bottling up your feelings (no, I don't always take my own advice) because it eventually will take one small thing to trigger a storm of emotions that could've been better handled much earlier. Go ahead and FEEL! Feel angry, upset, stressed, scared, when you're finished go back to step one to relax.

 

3. Divide and conquer.

Next is trying to fill in the blanks to your questions. Maybe you’re someone who knows what to ask but not who to ask. That’s what the careers office is for! Not sure why you’re freaking or what to ask? This is where you try to pinpoint why and try to solve your problems/stressors one at a time. Make a list, use a planner, fill out a Google calendar. Do whatever it is you do to organize yourself and have a little celebration everytime you cross something off. Don't know what career path to go into? Not sure if you like your options? Are you more concerned about finding a job in the first place? Struggling to balance your schedule? Take that breath and check out the next step.

 

4. Use your resources.

Believe it or not, most colleges actually provide some stellar information, if you know where to find it. That’s the kicker, they have the resources, but it seems like there is some evil email eating monster preventing you from the information you desperately need.

I still find myself saying “Wowww.. I had no idea about (insert cool thing that would’ve helped me earlier).”

So you’ll have to take some initiative here. Dig through your school's website, visit their guidance office (even if you aren’t looking for counseling, although it may help, they should be able to hear your problem and direct you accordingly). Also look for signs around campus (not signs from the unknown that only you can see, but actual signs!). Take a photo of events coming up, like career and internship fairs-- some schools even have skills workshops! My final resource gift to you:

The INTERNET. I know you’re like.. “okay actually.. I’m not dumb..” I know that you are all brilliant and lovely, but the thing is, I will ask questions (to myself or others) that I don't have the automatic inkling to just Google. Or I’m just not aware that there are special websites out there to answer all of your career related Qs. I like using this one for checking out occupations, salary, and all around information on jobs. And This one will tell you what you can do with your specific degree. And I will tell you that if you don’t know what to do even after researching, check out my next and final step.

 

5. Do you and be happy

This one seems like common sense, and it sort of is, but with pressures from peers, parents, and society, it’s hard to go against the grain. It’s not easy to look around at your friends who are graduating with jobs lined up ready for the working world, and look at yourself and feel so uncertain of your future.

But, it's easier to do when you’re happy. We are so rushed into settling down and choosing a path but you totally don't have to! Looking for a more unconventional lifestyle? Google, baby! You don't have to “make use” of your degree in the eyes of anyone but yourself. That degree in some way shaped who you are and if that you want to pursue a different degree, or work a different type of job, DO IT. You only get one shot at life so if you want to do something out of the box (completely legal and non-harmful to others) then go for it!

Looking to travel after school? (This is where I smile to myself because I’m a travel junkie) Then go for it! Do it now while you’re young and able! No, its not free but you can totally do it on a budget and with some planning, you can be on your way to a year in Australia, six months in Brazil or a summer in Europe. You can visit the website of the country that you’re interested in to look for student/temporary work visas so you can live and work abroad!

Here are some other resources:

Work for your accommodation

Watch someone’s house abroad (and stay in it for FREE!)

Teach English in another country

So, go ahead and freak out, take a bubble bath, make that checklist, eat a donut with your pumpkin spiced latte and tell yourself and your friends that it will all work out.