The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I absolutely dread this question: “What are you doing after university?” In my experience, this question is always followed by a blank stare and stammering, as I try to come up with an answer that sounds better than just simply saying “I don’t really know.”
Oftentimes I find there is a lot of pressure to have your life completely planned out after you get your degree — to have a complete life plan that will guide you through the course of your professional career. There seems to be this stigma pushing the idea that having a clear-cut career plan equates to hard work while being unsure about what comes after university means that you don’t have your life together — that you are unambitious and lazy. Of course, this is often far from the truth. And yet, more often than not, the shame that comes from not knowing what you want to do after university is difficult to shake.
I find that most of my stress about my future career path stems from my desire to achieve two broad, yet vital life goals: success and happiness. Questioning what I want for my future feels like I’m somehow being held behind, further away from the triumph I desperately want for myself. Life after university is incredibly open-ended and filled with countless possibilities. Yet there is something scary about no longer having a syllabus to provide you with a step-by-step outline about how to be successful. My mind is constantly buzzing with intrusive thoughts about my future: What if I have too many interests? What if I choose the wrong career path? What if I hate my job? Where will I be in five years? Ten years? Will I be comfortable? Rich? Barely scraping by? All of these questions seem to boil down to the same deep-set desire: I hope I’m successful. I hope I’m happy. When I find myself spiralling about my future, I try to ground myself by remembering that success and happiness can be achieved in a variety of different ways. There is no fixed way to achieve triumph, so spending your time trying to reach a peak that doesn’t exist will always leave an unhappy hole in your heart.
It’s important to clarify that this is not to say that you should avoid setting short or long-term goals for yourself. Time, effort and hard work toward your aspirations are undoubtedly important and have many benefits, allowing for continuous learning, self-improvement and fulfillment. With this being said, it’s extremely easy to get so caught up in focusing on what comes next in your life, that you begin to neglect the present. What do you enjoy right now? Take that and roll with it, and remember that your passions and interests grow, evolve and change — what you want for yourself one day may not be what you desire the next, and that’s okay!
Let this article be a gentle reminder that you are not a failure for going through trial and error as you explore different pathways that bring you joy. It’s never too late.