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Friday, April 19, 2024

A love letter to not knowing what’s next

How to practice gratitude for this uncertain time in your life

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Whether you’re graduating this June or in a couple years, the thought of life after college has surely crossed your mind. Some people wince at the thought, some are excited to get out of here and some even have jobs lined up and waiting for them. No matter what point you’re at in your planning for post-grad life, you’re on the right path.

If you have chosen to study something you love and it also happens to have economic value, continue pursuing it with fervor and dedication (you’re one of the lucky ones!). If you don’t have that perfect combination, that’s okay too. Welcome to the experience of most people. A lot of us feel that same stress, so definitely don’t feel alone.

Once you graduate, you have an infinite number of paths ahead of you. You could join the Peace Corps, go to graduate school, travel the world, move home for a bit, start bartending, develop welding skills, start a podcast — you get the point. You can do anything you want, and that’s the beauty of it. These possibilities might not be immediately available to you under the constraints of finances and other responsibilities, but the fact remains that there are more potential paths for your life than the one you imagined when you were 18. When you graduate, you graduate into more freedom over your future — and even though that can be scary, it’s exciting too.

This is a time in your life when it’s okay not to know. It’s a time when you have the freedom to try new things because there’s so much life ahead of you to keep trying. Give yourself grace and time to figure out what you want to do because the journey is part of the process and the fun. You’re creating meaningful memories and stories you will tell for years to come. Although it may feel like society expects you to know what you want to do right out of college, please know that all people experience periods of exploration and self-discovery before they find a path that is right for them. In fact, many recommend it!

It’s also normal to change your career multiple times, so don’t feel pressured to pick something and stick with it forever. In fact, this is a perfect time to start trying out career fields to begin your search. Maybe you just find a job to pay the bills for now — that’s fine and doesn’t mean you’re locked in for life. The point we’re trying to make here is that it is all on your own schedule, and you shouldn’t feel persuaded to do what society or even your parents want. Do your best to listen to your own desires and curiosities — start there.

After all, the point of school is to learn, not to just learn how to get a job (though maybe that should be incorporated into the curriculum given our current economy and society). But once you graduate you can take all the knowledge you’ve gained and apply it to the world around you, even if it’s in a different way than you expected when picking your major. Much like your knowledge, the world is multifaceted and intersectional, and can benefit from your uniquely curious mind.

Giving yourself time to explore without bounds can be a way to truly make a difference and find a way to spend your life doing something (or somethings!) that fulfills you.

As you look for these potential careers, understand that you don’t need a job that changes the world AND is in your dream city AND is creatively fulfilling AND uses your specific diploma AND impresses your mom. Find work that makes you feel valuable, yes, but all of these expectations that have been placed on what a “valuable life” looks like, are fake. You get to decide what fulfills you and what gives your life value. And what a wonderful privilege that is. Not to mention, it’s likely that much of what fulfills you will come from other facets of your life, rather than your career. 

Remember, happiness is not dependent on having things “figured out.” Your happiness is much too important, and life is much too beautifully messy for this to be the case.

You might be looking for a job or figuring out where to live or trying to find what you’re most passionate about, but even in the midst of all of this, you can still appreciate the little things and enjoy where you are now. It’s important to teach yourself how to be happy while experiencing stresses like these, especially because you’ll probably never feel like you’ve fully figured it out. There will always be things you’re waiting for or more goals to reach, so learning to protect your peace in all the craziness of life is essential to your happiness. 

It may feel like this editorial is saying, how could the future be stressful when it’s also all of these wonderful things? But we recognize that like many things in life, this is something that is exciting and beautiful, and also scary and anxiety-inducing. Financial stress and social pressures are real, and finding a balance between exploration and stability is going to be tough. 

But humans are nothing if not adaptable and resilient, and the good news is that you, too, are a resilient, adaptable human. You’re going to do just fine out there.

No one changes the world alone, and no one doesn’t change it at all. We are all lost sometimes. In our experience, this is when the most growth happens. Remember that doing things for yourself and your future dreams should be a priority, so use this time of uncertainty to tend to your dreams, whether they be big or small. The wandering you’re doing and will be doing is meaningful, and it might actually help lead you to your next job or passion. It will show you strength and resilience you didn’t know you had and teach you the virtue of patience. 

So you’re on a path and you don’t know where it’s going, what a boring life it would be if you did. Embrace the unknown, try new things, find your place.

Written by: The Editorial Board

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