Let me ask you something — when you were a kid, and people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did you tell them?
Think back to what life was like at eight years old. You painted a picture with your words any time someone asked you about your dream job. Conjuring up a grandiose future in which you live out your wildest dreams, your ideas for the future were limitless and ever changing. Maybe you wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer. Maybe you wanted to be a fashion designer. Maybe you wanted to own an amusement park where everything is elephant-themed, and the workers ride elephants, and all the food is elephant-shaped, and you get a free elephant on the way out!!!
Okay, maybe that was just me. Regardless, it was always, “Sky’s the limit, kiddo.”
Flash forward about 10 years or so, and you’re a “grown up.” Pressures rise as you feel forced to pick career paths or colleges, and you’re pretty upset when “elephant amusement park operation” isn’t on the list of majors to choose from. When “real life” is on the horizon, the dreams of your eight-year-old self seem nostalgic, distant, and—suddenly—not so plausible. An uncomfortable dissonance arises between what you may have expected for yourself and what is actually happening, like, right now. Suddenly, you’re a college girl or a 20-something and the world is spinning faster and faster each day. People you know are getting engaged. Homegirl from high school is pregnant with baby number two. Your friends are pursuing actual careers, and you still have no idea what you want to do with your life.
And you know what? That’s okay.
I am unashamed to say that I truly have no idea what I’m doing after I graduate (and P.S., I graduate this May). I haven’t drawn up a five-year-plan, nor do I have a job waiting for me after I toss my cap in the air. It took some time to come to grips with the fact that I don’t know what the future holds, and it’s fine that I don’t.
My first three years at college were spent with little direction, taking general education credits just to get by. With my many passions and interests, I had trouble channeling them down one path. I couldn’t decide on a major, let alone a career. My undergrad years quickly dwindled to its final fractions, and I began to worry about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. While dealing with the anxieties of an uncertain future, the unsolicited opinions of others sent me into full-on ‘freak-out-mode’. Family members and friends who asked me what I wanted to do post-grad seemed absolutely appalled when I told them plainly that I didn’t know.
“You haven’t been looking for jobs or internships?!”
“What do you mean you ‘don’t know’? Aren’t you about to graduate??”
Listen, Aunt Linda. I’m just as clueless as you are.
You may find yourself in a similar situation, and you sit back and wonder, “Should I have my shit together by now?”
The short answer I have is “No”.
It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to have a heart bursting with passions that cannot be narrowed down to one category. It’s okay to be uncertain, because the night is still young, my friend. What’s not OK is sitting idly by and comparing yourself to the achievements and paths of others. Instead of worrying about what you don’t have, focus on the things you know to be true.
I know I’ll never be a pharmacist like my roommate, nor a lawyer like my pledge sister. Math and science have never been my strong suits, but I can write a poem that’ll bring you to tears. I love to write. I love to talk. I love to connect with people. It took me until my second semester of my senior year to be proactive and apply what I have learned about myself to the first steps of my future. Now I’m writing for this blog y’all are reading!
The common misconception is that people who don’t know what they want to do for a career are lazy. A lack of motivation is not the reason they haven’t found a job or applied to grad school; they simply haven’t figured it out yet. The key is to find what makes your heart sing. What drives you? What keeps you engaged and excited? What thing do you just really, really like? Take that thing—big or small—and try something new with it. As cliché as it sounds, you never know until you try. Blogging and writing never seemed like a career path I would take, but here I am, simply enjoying the process of spilling my thoughts out on to a page and connecting with people through my words. I may never write a screenplay or sell hundreds of thousands of books someday… Or, maybe I will. It’s fine that I don’t know. For now, I’ll keep exploring my options, and never set limits on myself. And I dare you to do the same.
There is no definite formula for success. No one choice will guarantee happiness and fortune. Hard work, positivity, and a willingness to try will ensure that you’ll see the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. When you were eight, your ideas of the future were vast and promising. Inside of all of us, that eight-year-old little girl still dreams with reckless abandon. Follow where she tells you to go and enjoy the journey. And if you open that elephant-themed amusement park you’ve always wanted, I’m expecting a lifetime membership pass.