If you can label yourself as one of those people that declared what you would do in the future as a six-year-old and stuck with it, I must say I envy you. While I never struggle with knowing what I enjoy, I definitely struggle following through with what I want to do. Ironic, right? So why not add another option to complicate things? Like graduating before my original projected semester?
And guess what? I officially arrived at the point where I need to make a decision and I don’t know what to do.
A few months ago, I discovered that I could graduate a semester earlier than previously expected. The idea excited me at first. Aside from the fact that it seemed like an extra achievement (and proved that my high school APs actually paid off), thinking about the money I could save brought a smile to my face. I could finally part ways with school work and the late nights thinking about the time I spend studying something quite abstract and nebulous. Maybe I could finally stay home for an extended period of time. Maybe I could even travel.
The excitement immediately dissipated once the initial high died down and the more practical thoughts came knocking at my door. What exactly do I plan to do after graduating? I would obviously get a job at some point. But what kind of job? Despite all the time I had to think about this the past few years, my mind could still only draw up an amorphous cloud. You see, majoring in English means that you can take on pretty much any other career direction —marketing, communications, publishing, journalism, writing, etc.— but that means you can take your pick of anything.
Meaning, if you don’t know concretely what you wish for, you also can’t just continue onto a singular path the way med students do.
Don’t get me wrong, I know what I signed up for and greatly appreciate it. But even for someone who resists strict, immovable schedules and plans, this kind of uncertainty still frightens me. I don’t want to stumble around aimlessly until the luxury of time and youth slips me by one day. I don’t want to feel inadequate. Most of all, I don’t want to waste all that my parents gave me, letting them and myself down. While the endless whirl of concerns drew me into its fold —drew me to tears sometimes— something my mom said never quite left my mind.
“Plenty of working middle-aged people don’t know what they want to do.”
The statement neither criticizes nor encourages. It just lays out the truth. I not only think about it a lot but also share it with my friends far too often. Because contrary to assumptions, adults don’t really know what they’re doing either. Intentionally or otherwise, educational spaces condition us to perceive the future and life in general as clearly definable things. I can chart the course of every step I will take from now till the end of time as if my brain and imagination came equipped with a GPS to the future. I don’t mean to suggest that plans don’t fortify our lives by making broad ambitions into manageable goals, but life doesn’t unfold in a straight line. You can know what you want now just for uncontrollable circumstances to force your hand. COVID more than proved that.
Before my fear or excitement takes over again, I took a step back to remember that I should sit down and weigh my options first. Look at them neutrally. See that they don’t guarantee anything, that they don’t need to turn into reality and certainly don’t define me for eternity. Uncertainty exists not as a flaw or a point of positivity but as a fact of life. We can only hope that our oars will take us where we want to go. If that doesn’t happen, then we’ll sail along uncertainty’s flow.
So I’ll continue to consider my options and check what my current situation literally allows. When the time comes to make the decision, I probably won’t feel confident about it at all. I can only rely on what I feel at the very bottom of my gut. The rest I leave to fate and each step as I take it. One thing’s for sure, in the past few years of growth, I know from experience that I will not know any more about the future than I did before.