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The #1 Worst Question to Ask a College Student


Last week, as I sat in the back of my English class practicing my signature on every page of my renaissance poetry book, I had the strange feeling that everyone was staring at me. They were, of course. And as usual, my professor had asked me a question while I was busy concentrating on my perfect handwriting and thinking about what I was going to eat for lunch.

Usually I know how to handle this type of situation. Glance at the book, find a sentence, say something that makes the professor nod in agreement. But this time was different.

“I’m sorry, what was the question?”
“What do you want to do?” My professor asked again.
I thought for a moment. “You mean, with my life?”
“Yes,” she said, and smiled, as if she had asked how I like my coffee.
In that moment, I’d never felt more disappointed in someone – for making me feel so disappointed in myself.

I have absolutely no idea what I want to do with the rest of my life. I don’t even know what I want to do tomorrow. Right now, all I know is that I’m craving a bag of salt and vinegar chips and that my shoe is untied.

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I’m proud that I haven’t planned out the next ten years of my life. I’m proud that I haven’t applied for twenty different internships with companies that only want someone who knows how to break down a cardboard box. And the question I’ve been asking myself for the past week now, is why, at the age of twenty, are we expected to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives?

And the answer – or at least, my answer – is that we shouldn’t be. It’s an unreasonable question that begs an equally unreasonable answer. If I knew, right now, what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life – or even the next twenty years – I’d crawl into a rabbit hole and willingly let the fluffy critters nibble me to death. How should we be expected to make such a big decision when we’ve barely had time to explore our options? After all, that’s what our twenties are all about – late nights, new people, road trips and layovers. Our twenties should be all about discovering our own answers to this question, not picking one from the mythical bottomless bank of job offers and life plans.

This is what I wanted to tell my professor that day. This is what I wish I had told her. Instead, this is what I told her: “I guess I could be a teacher.”


That answer, that seven-letter response, is the biggest regret of my college career so far. I could have told her that I was planning to live out of a shopping cart under the freeway for the rest of my life, and I would have been more satisfied.

I guess, my point is that we shouldn’t stress out about what we’re going to do with the rest of our lives. If we do that, we won’t appreciate the experiences that could possibly lead us to an answer. Instead, let’s let our parents and professors worry for us. Because, little do they know, we know exactly what we’re doing – we’re figuring it out.

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