Dealing with Post-Graduation Ambiguity

Emilie, by our student standards, has made it. In the spring of 2018, she graduated from McGill University with a first class honours degree in Art History. Once we leave the academic system, once we graduate, the whole world opens up to us - a world of decisions, decisions we have to make ourselves. It’s bloody terrifying. When Emilie graduated, she faced the decision of whether to go back to school in October to do a Masters or to go travel the world. 

Though her original dream was to be a ballet dancer or a painter, with age, Emilie’s career goals have shifted to academia. The idea of being a professor, putting together interesting classes and caring for her students appeals to her, however, academia at that level is super “cut throat.” There would be a constant pressure to publish and to surpass her colleagues. When I spoke to her in the fall on the matter, she expressed concerns about how ready she was for a Masters. “I feel it’s what I should be doing, but I dont feel ready for it,” she admitted. 

All Emilie really wants to do is travel. Last summer, after many trips to Europe, she planned her first trip to South America, where she completely fell in love with the culture. She adventured all over Peru and Ecuador, hiking up Machu Picchu with her best friends. When we’re young and growing up, it is important to be able to learn about other cultures and expand your horizons. Emilie was inspired by Latin American music, the language, the friendly people... She worries that “living in hostels, cold showers, humid rooms, no air conditioning, working for the next meal, long bus rides are all experiences that are only fun when you’re young.” Travelling therefore feels urgent and fleeting. 

Emilie, now, has been able to reconcile her desire to travel with her desire to pursue higher education firstly by going to study abroad, as well as by returning to South America this summer before school starts. She has applied to universities in England. Not only would such an opportunity satiate her wish to “visit and live in a variety of cities,” but also, London, with its multiplicity of reputable art institutions, is an ideal location for Emilie’s focus on European art history. Although she’ll miss her friends and family, along with their “dramatic Sunday dinners,” she cannot wait to see what London has to offer her. Emilie also plans to go on a three-month trip around South America where she’ll be able to immerse herself in a totally alien culture. She now speaks excitedly of the new friends she’ll make, of the Spanish she’ll practice and especially, of the diverse landscape in South America — the “mountains, jungle, beaches, cloud forests, salt flats and cities”! 

All in all, today’s society puts a huge pressure on young adults, whether it be to choose your future career at age 16 when entering Cégep or after graduating university, when the pressure of being successful at a young age will push you into following a path you’re not sure you want to go down. It is ridiculous to expect a 21 year old to know what they want to do every day for the rest of their life. Deciding who we want to be and what we want to do are age-old questions that we all face. Know that no matter how worried and confused you are now, you are not alone. Emilie too faces these concerns everyday. With the support of her friends, her family and a significant amount of reflection however, she was able to come to the following conclusion: 

“I’ve accepted that it’s okay not to have a plan yet, your 20s are meant to be to take advantage of being young. My dad used to say ‘youth is wasted on the young’; I have always been determined to prove that quote wrong”. 

Though it may feel overwhelming now, what’s life without a little excitement and confusion to keep you on your toes?