What Comes Next? A Reflection on Moving Into Post-Graduate Life

For the first time in my life, I don’t have a set plan. Over the past twenty-two years, if you asked me where I’d be in a year, I could answer definitely. I knew what was expected. I was going to go to middle school, then to high school and then to college. Even when the exact details were in flux — where I would end up going to college, for example — I at least knew the general idea. I was going to finish middle school, I was going to finish high school, and I was going to finish college.

Right now, I’m about to do that last step. And I have no idea what’s coming next.

Once you exit the sphere of education that you’ve so comfortably existed in from the time you were five years old, there are less guidelines. All those check-list items (Apply to college! Chose a dorm! Declare your major! Take this list of classes!) have been checked off. I look at my degree audit now, and it is full of green check marks; I’m done. There’s nothing left to check off.

Sure, I’ve got my classes to finish up, projects to do, presentations to give and Her Campus articles to write, but that all finishes in two weeks. Then, I will walk across that stage come December 16, and that last box I’ve been waiting to check off will be done.

I won’t bore you with my tentative post-graduation plans, but just know that for the most part, none of them are set in stone. They are vague outlines of plans in contrast to the clearly demarcated path I have taken since elementary school. For someone who relies on structure and guidance, that is, honestly, quite terrifying.

But it’s also incredibly exciting.

There isn’t a next item to check off. Tentatively, of course, there is: get a job, get a house, get married, have kids. But while within school there was a fixed timeline (for the most part, but as someone graduating a semester later, I definitely understand), after graduation, there’s so many different variables. Am I going to find a job and stick with that? Or am I going to go to graduate school? Am I going to find a job and realize it’s not what I want to do? Am I going to get a house ever or is my taste for avocado toast going to prevent me from ever achieving homeowner status? Will I get married in three years or five years or ten? These are questions that don’t have set answers, not for me, not for anyone really.

While in school, provided that everything went according to plan, I knew I’d finish high school in four years and college in around four. But now, the key difference is that there is no “according to plan.” There’s rough outlines. There’s a tentative checklist that may get erased halfway through. There’s a blank piece of paper.

When I applied to college, one of the essays I used for submission was about how scared I had been about the unknown and the future. I still am scared, I’ll admit, but I remember ending that essay with the phrase “the unknown can be anything, and anything can be everything.”

Even though I’m scared — even though a lot of you out there are scared — it is important to remember that there’s just so much out there for us. We are privileged enough to be graduating from a top-ten university, and with our education, we’ve been given the tools for the future — be that the workforce, graduate school, raising a family, moving to Korea to teach English, starting a company out of a garage or maybe even all of the above. Instead of being scared of the unknown, let us try to turn it into something that excites us. I don’t know where I’m going to be a year from now, and for the first time, instead of making me anxious, the thought of that makes me excited.