Hey, guys – welcome back to TNTH!
As a student in college or in grad school, we sometimes go to family gatherings and one of the most common questions that your extended family will ask you is “so what do you want to do after you graduate?” During my undergrad career, I had that question asked to me as early on as my sophomore year, and as a student with many years to go, it creates unnecessary worry about your future.
When I started college, I knew from the start that I wanted to study English. English was the subject that I loved the most in public school, and most importantly – I wanted to write. Many people thought that I wanted to study English to become an English teacher, which is honestly the last thing I want to do. I would continuously joke how teaching was my “plan Z”; if all else fails, I would settle with teaching. With the many highs of my English major career, there were many lows, and every time I expressed those lows with those around me, their first suggestion would be to go into teaching. At first, I would ignore those comments, but as I’ve gotten into grad school and almost completing it, the comment frustrates me. It makes me feel like the degree that I worked hard for and earned was all for nothing if I’m not using it to go after my dreams. I don’t have anything against teachers; my college friend and my partner are both teachers within their respected field and I commend them for what they do.
I’m simply saying stop trying to “box me in”, as a colleague of mine expressed once.
And it’s the truth. As college and grad students, we are expected to know what we want to do, how we are going to do it, and how bad we are willing to work for it. Just because a classmate of mine wants to teach ESL to third grade students and is getting her degree in English Linguistics doesn’t mean she has her shit together more than a student who doesn’t have a plan. Plans are nice to have — trust me I use to be that type of student — but what happens when your life takes another direction? What happens if you can’t do what you want to do because life happens? Do you just give up and say “well, screw it” because you’re not going to do what you planned on doing? Why put yourself in that box in the first place?
I went through most of my undergrad career wanting to be a scriptwriter. I took two courses to help further prepare me for the industry and instantly fell in love with it. When I was applying for grad school, I specifically wanted to apply to a film school to get my MFA in Screenwriting. The reality of getting accepted into such a competitive industry (especially for women) are slim to none, and sadly I got rejected from the school I applied for. The college I did my undergrad studies accepted me into their Masters program and being in it for almost two years have taught me a lot about how life really works.
Plans are great to have, but goals are even better. Plans don’t have any sort of direction leading to them; essentially they are ideas that we want. “my plan is to move out of my parent’s place by the time I turn 22.” After that, what else do you have in order to follow up on that plan? Yeah, it sounds nice and it may be what you want, but by planning to move out by 22 puts yourself in this box that you HAVE to be out of the house by 22. Setting minor goals like getting a job and finding friends who may want to be roommates of yours are steps to take in order to achieve that “plan”. There’s a reason why people say that it’s easier said than done.
Going back to education: telling yourself that you want to do a particular thing when you graduate sets you on a path where you ignore everything that’s around you and only focus on what you want. Meanwhile, on your journey towards this “plan”, you could be encountering opportunities that you might find yourself wanting to do. While being close-minded to everything else around you, you could’ve lost the opportunity to do that one thing that you actually like doing.
All in all, I’m saying that limiting yourself (especially in your 20’s) shouldn’t be the way you live and explore your life. You’re young, and the world is full of different things to explore; why not see what’s out there? Why lock yourself into one occupation choice if you haven’t seemed out other options? Why settle for something you aren’t sure you still want to do in a couple of years?
Don’t just do something just because everyone around you is doing something similar or if you’re in a place where you aren’t sure what to do with your life.
Use that as inspiration to find out what it will be.