It’s the last semester of senior year. Friends are starting their final internships. Some are applying for grad school, law school, or med school. My inbox is full of reminders for senior pictures and robe fittings. The weather is cold but it’s bound to get warmer and once it’s spring, I’ll only be weeks away from finishing one of the biggest achievements of my life.
I’ve never been more terrified.
It was easy to push away the nerves last semester. In September, I had an entire school year before I had to even think about graduation or finding a job. The summer was only beginning to die and I could still revel in being a fresh, up-and-coming 21-year-old.
Now, as the winter sun shines down, but offers little warmth, I’m a ball of nerves. I can barely go a few hours without feeling the impending doom of the future breathing down the back of my neck. Relatives, professors, and friends ask me what I’m planning on doing with my life after I graduate, and I’m feeling the tried and true “I’m not sure yet” taste as dry as tree bark every time I have to say it.
Does it make sense, to spend 4 years in school and still have no idea what I want to do with my life?
Look, I’ll be real with you: it sucks that you can spend thousands of dollars for tuition, spend hundreds of hours in class, and eat one too many questionable dining hall dinners and still have no idea where your future is going. Every time I even think about what I want to do after I graduate, I’m met with an endless flood of anxiety and questions.
Is my résumé up to date?
Where will I live?
Should I go back home?
Should I move somewhere else?
What if no one will hire me?
What if I do get a job, but it doesn’t make me happy?
That’s when I tell myself to stop. To breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
Truth be told, it’s okay to not know where you want to end up after your graduate, or what you want to do. A report done by The Washington Post back in 2013 stated that only 27% of college graduates actually ended up working in a career that was related to what they majored in. You’re not at all limited by what you decided to study. My mom majored in political science, but ended up working in finance. My dad originally went to school to become a priest. Obviously, if he had, I wouldn’t be here worrying about where my own major will take me.
It’s perfectly natural to be worried about graduating. It’s hard to be around people who seem like they have it all figured out. Maybe they’ve done some killer internships, or if they’re especially lucky, they already have a job lined up after they graduate. It may cause you to look at yourself and wonder why you don’t have these opportunities too, or stress that you won’t be as successful as your peers.
We learn far more about ourselves when we’re faced with adversity than when things just come easy to us. Sometimes I want to absolutely pull my hair out when I think about the future, but the future will still come no matter how much I dread it.
I’m learning now that it’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to stress, and I’m definitely not the only one who feels like this. The end of college doesn’t equate to the end of the world. No, I won’t see my friends as much, and I’ll miss being a student. Maybe I missed out on some opportunities along the way, but that’s all part of growing up.
Instead of biting your nails and sweating over what you could’ve done differently, take a deep breath and push that energy towards something far more productive: do whatever makes you happy. Nobody expects you to run the world straight out of college. Take a year off. Travel. Volunteer. Write a book. Take a pottery class. Go on a road trip. Stop stressing over what lies ahead after the graduation caps hit the floor. It might feel like life is chasing you down sometimes, but its time to give life the middle finger and just do you.