Read This If You Just Don’t Know What’s Next

Anastasia Vârlan

So, what’s next?

A question I get ALL of the time as a young 20-something. Usually this is pertaining to jobs, sometimes it’s after I rant about a stupid guy (happens frequently).

I don’t know yet.

A simple answer that usually leaves people with a confused look on their face immediately followed by a cheerful, “Oh, well you’ll figure something out I’m sure!”

Yeah, I know. 

I’m not one to plan. I act on my emotions and intuitions most of the time which can get me into trouble but I also don’t think trusting your gut is entirely as bad as it sounds.

I will figure it out. 

That was the mentality I had when I moved down here in August, and it’s stuck with me nine months later. A lot of people have reached out to me asking about the logistics of my move (money, jobs, etc.). They are usually dissatisfied with my answer as I usually reply with something like, “You just kinda figure it out…”

I understand that for some this may be a tough mentality to embrace. If someone were to tell me that a year ago I would probably laugh and then cry after looking at the minuscule number in my checking account.

The F*CK  you mean, “You just kinda figure it out?!”

Well, you do.

I remember the anxiety of graduating all to well. It was a year ago *gasps*, but getting faced with the question of, “So, what’s next?” was something I heard more than my first name. If you’re a recent college grad and you don’t know the answer to that yet, it’s ok, because I don’t either. A year later and I don’t have the slightest clue “what’s next.” And that’s totally cool. Well, at least I think it is.

I recently left my 9-5 job. On good terms, but it just wasn’t the right fit for me.

I know that there is a “next step” but it’s just a matter of giving myself enough time to figure out what that next step will be. And for all you job seekers, you could agree that searching for a full-time job is a job in itself– why do I have to upload a resume AND fill in your online form outlining everything that my resume says? 

While the mantra in pre-graduation was “make connections, have something lined up, check with your career advisor blah blah blah.” The same things pertains to post-grad life except my career advisor is either my mom or an ex-fling who is decent at resume writing. The expectations remain the same, except the bar is set higher after college because you’re supposed to, like, know things or whatever.

I got too drunk on a Tuesday is no longer a viable excuse (but was it really ever?). 

Anyways, if I was “smart” and following the societal career expectations, it would go something like this:

1. Achieve an entry level job.

2. Work hard. Give it your all.

3. Grow within the company or seek other opportunities.

4. Find other opportunity.

5. Put your notice in, leave on good terms.

Here is mine.

1. Achieve an entry level job.

2. Work hard. Give it your all.

3. Grow within the company or seek other opportunities.

4. Accept that I would like to pursue other opportunities.

5. Not be sure about what other opportunities to seek.

6. Put notice in, leave on good terms.

7. Bartend.

Slight difference. But I don’t see why both are not considered honorable.

I was always told to have something lined up before I quit something, but when something doesn’t feel right, I don’t see the point of staying.

Happiness is numero uno, my friends. Remember that.

To the people who don’t know what’s next:

This is exciting sh*t. A bit unnerving at times, but still exciting. People are going to tell you that right now is the time to jumpstart your career. To figure out the best way to get ahead of the next guy. And they’re right-that is important. But don’t settle for something just because you feel like you need to follow the rigid societal structure for the rest of your life.

Because you don’t.

Living in a city so career-focused, my anxiety about figuring out “what’s next” has been heightened at times. Surrounded by successful politicians, consultants, restaurant owners, etc., jobs are always the center of conversation. People are always hustling to get ahead, hustling to make themselves better in a culture full of extremely motivated people. People don’t just live here. They live here because they work here.

I would assume that the number of 23 year olds who live here without a “career plan” set in place is rare. It’s a demographic that I have fallen into, but instead of stressing over it, I embrace the “you’ll figure it out” mentality.

The best is yet to come. And the idea of that excites me. It should excite you too.

You are a marketable human being. Know that. Own it.

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have figured out, focus on what you do have. So what if you have to serve tables to get by? The service industry has introduced me to some of the greatest people and launched my career towards whatever is next. But why does “next” always have to be defined? It shouldn’t.

I see grad school in my future. I also see a really handsome and nice guy who appreciates all things involving pizza and dogs. Definitely see a plane ticket to a random spot on the map. Perhaps a bionic pancreas will get thrown into the mix too.

Those things will come. Maybe not “next,” but someday.

I’m about to experience my first “resume gap” but I’m as concerned with that as I am with thigh gaps (which is very minimal). Some may read this as irresponsible, but I’d have to disagree. It’s not a matter of lacking motivation, it’s a matter of navigating towards where I want to be the best way I know how.

You can’t focus on getting ahead if your current situation is holding you back.

If you just graduated this past weekend, you’re probably wondering what your 100k slip of paper reallystands for besides a lifetime of loans.

It stands for a lifetime of blank pages and unexpected outcomes. New cities, new flings, new chapters, new “WTF was I thinking”s. You’re going to piss yourself off a lot along the way, but there will also be countless days where you think, “I’m the shit,” and truly mean it. Hold onto those days.

If I were to give one spiel of advice to newly graduated seniors, it would be this:

Choose new beginnings. Don’t get trapped into the rigid societal structure- that’s what 22 years of school was for. Do what you love, but know that you might have to do something you don’t love as much to get there. Work hard. Make connections- but not just the career oriented kind. Talk to people. Good people. You’re going to fuck up…a lot. You’re going to choose shitty guys, you’re going to piss off your boss. It’s ok. Just be good people. Character trumps bullet points any day if you’re searching for non-monetary fulfillment.

And that is the most important type of fulfillment if you’re looking to mentally survive the real world…trust me.

You’re not always going to know what’s next, and that’s ok. You’ll figure it out.

…at least that’s the mentality I’m going with so I’ll let you know how I turn out. Fingers crossed. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Beth is a Netflix and fitness enthusiast, with an undying desire to see the world. Read her blog.

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