We’ve all been asked those basic questions as college students: how’s school going, how are you liking it, and what’s your major again? We often regurgitate the same little speech we have repeated hundreds of times — thousands if you count Thanksgiving dinners. Mine goes something like, “It’s going well! School is tough, but I love my major and am excited about what I am learning.” Then, the question I dread comes: what is your plan after graduation? Of course, I kindly and respectfully respond with the general expectations for my post-grad life. I know that those who ask me these questions are trying to show me that they care about my life, and it comes from a place of love. I know that they don’t expect me to give them a long, elaborate play-by-play of every move I will make after graduation and what I am doing to set myself up for when that time comes. But, that question forces me to search for an answer, and if I were being honest, I would respond with “I have no freaking clue.”
If you are anything like me, questions about the future may bring up feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. When I’m asked what is going to happen to my life after graduation, it forces me to evaluate what I want my life to be in only a few years. I have to think about what I value most, what is available to me, what I am most interested in, how high I should set my goals, and how realistic my goals are in comparison to my capabilities and resources. It seems like we are expected to have our futures figured out when I’m not even entirely sure how to do my laundry correctly or what a W-2 form is. We are currently living in this strange transition period where we need to make long-term decisions quickly as we are still developing our interests. Even for those who do know what they want their careers to be, there are still many uncertainties. Maybe, you’ve wanted to be a doctor ever since you could remember. Still, you need to decide which medical school you will attend, which classes you need to take to get accepted, and what kind of medicine you wish to practice. Of course, I am just projecting all of my twenty-year-old pre-grad anxieties onto this article, but I am not wrong about the amount of hard thinking we need to do to set ourselves up for a substantial and happy life.
Although you may not believe me at this point, I am not solely a pessimist. I know that everything will turn out OK. I am the youngest of three children. I have watched both of my siblings go through the same stresses about their futures, and they turned out to be successful and happy young professionals. I know that my life will shape out the way it’s intended to, but the uncertainty is killer. After all, I’m a sucker for spoilers. I think it’s like you’re at the very bottom of a mountain, staring up at its peak. You know? You know you need to climb the mountain and you know you will reach the peak. You just don’t know which specific path will get you to that peak, or what the peak will look like once you reach it. What if you run out of mountain-climbing supplies or fall into a crevasse? What if I don’t have a Sherpa to guide me up the path? However, I am holding onto the hope that maybe the climb won’t be as difficult as I once thought it was. After each trench passed or ridge scaled, I will have another set of experiences under my belt that will make things easier in the future. I think the key is that we need to remember that, although the climb is arduous at times, it is also beautiful. You get to meet great climbing buddies, see magnificent views, and obtain mega bragging rights. I wish my metaphor was better, but my mountain-climbing knowledge is limited unfortunately. But, you get it. I am scared, but I am going to enjoy the journey and not put too much pressure on myself. Even though the peak is coming, the climb is the best part.