I think the scariest part about senior spring semester is that I am starting to have to ask myself some very adult questions. I’ve written about denial, about my future potential unemployment and about a lot of other things that I’ve been working through in my life. The most recent in my long list of issues I’m grappling with is my struggle to figure out what I’m going to do with my life, or more accurately, what I want to do.
There’s this idea you have when you’re younger that everyone has a dream of what they will do with their life, and for most people that dream comes true. What you realize as you get a little older, or at least what I realized, is that a lot of people are working in jobs they feel, for lack of a better way of saying it, “meh” about. A lot of people aren’t fulfilled by their jobs, don’t like what they do, or have settled. That idea that I used to have that everyone out there in the world was working at what they were always meant to do, is beginning to seem like just that: an idea. Not a reality.
When we were younger we would talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up with the kind of unfettered and unquestioned optimism that we could do whatever we wanted. When I was younger I would spout plans to be an artist or a fashion designer with the confidence that I could do these jobs, that I could pursue these passions. I grew older and my dreams morphed a little bit, changed once, twice, three times a day. But as my dreams changed, so did my attitude. Gone was the optimism of the, “I can,” and in its stead was the apprehension of the “Can I?”
Even more troubling than this change in attitude is another question that I’ve been asking myself lately. If you watch as many Paley Center panels, celebrity interviews or TED talks as I do, you know that usually somewhere in the middle of their interviews the celebrity is asked if they always knew that they wanted to pursue this line of work. And what I’ve found, from my own observation, is that most of them did know. These celebrities always knew. Or even if they didn’t always, they knew early. I’m beginning to think that you have to know what you want to do with your life early or you won’t reach the top. If you don’t know early enough, you won’t have the time to put in the insanely hard work it takes to be successful.
Bill Gates had already been computer programming for like 10 years by the time he was my age. Beyonce formed Destiny’s Child when she was 8 years old. 8 freaking years old. Unless I’m going to make my fame and fortune verbatim quoting Friends jokes or predicting winners of The Bachelor/Bachelorette (I guessed the last two right), I feel like I might be a little bit behind the ball at discovering my true talents.
The question I’ve begun to ask myself lately is, “What if I wasn’t born to do anything?” I’m 22 years old now, just getting started in my independent life. And while it feels too early to be giving up on anything (except maybe my Olympic gymnast aspirations), I feel compelled to ask myself if it’s too late. Should I have already figured it out?
I would be lying if I said that I felt confident about anything right now. Carefully written into my planner on the Monday after graduation is a series of three giant question marks. Everything about the future seems uncertain right now. It’s all a series of questions. What will I do? What should I do? What can I do?
If I want anything from my postgraduate life it is to get that optimism back. I want to get the “I can” back. I want to believe that it’s okay that I’m still figuring it out. I want to believe that we will all figure it out. That’s what I’m looking for in May.