An Open Letter To Everyone Who’s Asked Me ‘What’s Next?’

An Open Letter To Everyone Who’s Asked Me 'What’s Next?' After Graduating
Juan Ramos

Dear concerned interrogators,

I know you mean well. But I just threw my cap in the air, my diploma isn’t coming in the mail for six months, and the last of my Stuff by Hilary Duff is just making its way to Goodwill. Not to mention, I’m exhausted. I worked hard to get into college. I worked harder in college. I haven’t slowed down.

I’m asking now for a moment to catch my breath. But your question haunts me.

“What’s next?”

I feel like Ben in “The Graduate” passively accepting sloppy cheek kisses from dinner guests offering wide-eyed excitement about the future of “Plastics.”

“What’s next?” has me scrambling to reach All Star status on LinkedIn and “connecting” with people who I loved to hate in high school (but need to like now for the sake of my professional network). “What’s next?” has me staying up nights to get my resume just right so that I can send it to a hundred startups…and kicking myself for not having my own idea for a startup to start up.

“What’s next?” even has me avoiding people. Seriously! I pulled a Boo Radley at least a dozen times during the first few weeks I was home just to avoid your inevitable question. When I figured it was probably time to show my face again, I wrote my script, my shield against the infamous “What’s next?” encounter.

To say “I don’t know” would make me sound like a slacker. Millennials don’t say “I don’t know,” we discretely Google the question and act like we’ve known the answer all along.

Anyway, the script is a stretch. It has me doing a lot of name-dropping and saying that I’m “thinking about law school” when my interests currently lie elsewhere. Essentially, the script has me lying to you…and to myself. Regardless, the script makes me sound “BIG,” accomplished, like I’ve got irons in the fire and a network of possibilities. You typically respond to the script with “Great!” or “So ambitious!” or “Don’t go to law school…” and then, through me, go on to give your 22-year-old selves advice.

But I know that you are not going to stop asking your question and I don’t (necessarily) want you to. You’re curious humans, genuinely interested in the well-being of the recent grad in front of you (who will proceed to ask you for a job)! So, instead of dodging your question or telling you what I think you want to hear, I’m going off script. Technically, “what’s next” is ordering an extra hot latte macchiato. Is that so bad?

As I write this, I’m reminded of a recent run-in I had with a friend from grade school. I asked her what she’s been up to (assuming great success because she was always so talented) and she responded, “I need to get my roots done!” At the time, I thought this was the most peculiar answer to “Catch me up on your entire life in three minutes.” Now, I see the simple beauty in it. It was so peculiar that it had the power to bring the conversation to an effortlessly delightful halt. A halt that said let’s live in this moment right now and get this woman some color!

I’ve had four years of discovery. Now, I could use a moment for reflection. I promise you that I’m not wasting time. I’m soul-searching. I’m taking every known career aptitude test. (I’m writing this article!) I’m actively looking for my life. Please allow me (and all of the other recent grads in your life) this much-needed “moment.”

In the meanwhile, please take the time to give me (us) comforting kisses on the cheek (easy on the saliva). Please keep the advice and the potential job offers coming. And if in six months my diploma is still in its FedEx envelope and I’m looking for Duff Stuff on eBay, then by all means hit me with “What’s next?”

Sincerely,

A recent college grad who needs to schedule a teeth cleaning

P.S. Is the future still in “Plastics?” TC mark

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