I’m scared. I share a house with my friends who also happened to birth me (does that sound more or less pathetic than, “I live with my parents?”). For the first time in my whole life I have no direction. As a person very good at doing what I’m told (and not good at much else), this is please-push-me-off-a-cliff-frightening.
The last time I made a major life decision, not counting choosing a college, was when I was five and my mother wanted to continue to homeschool me. Kindergarten at home was a huge success but being a progressive parent she thought she’d let me decide. As Arthur’s biggest fan, I wanted nothing more than to be a school-going aardvark, so against her wishes I chose to attend first grade, certain it was the right choice. (I later begged to be homeschooled but that is a different story).
If only I had such conviction now. My current icons are Kim and Mindy, but seeing as I do not have an inflatable butt or a good enough sense of self-deprecating humor, following in their footsteps is unlikely.
A lot of my peers are going to med-school or hedge funds or something like that, but none of these things appeal to me (I also don’t really know what a hedge fund is).
I have the drinking habits and subsequent weight-gain of a very happy college girl. I also have a questionable degree in philosophy. Ancient Greece definitely doesn’t want me, so now what? I do not have answers. I would just like to say that if you wake up every night in a heart-pounding sweat about the trajectory of your existence, you are not alone.
For so long I’ve had my eye on the next thing to achieve—college was the biggest one— that I do not know how to make decisions from a place of genuine interest or passion. I recognize that this is really, really sad. I’m not saying I don’t have hobbies besides Hulu, I’m just saying I don’t know if I can turn any of them into a career, and what to do if I can’t. Honestly I have no idea if there’s anything I can do 40 hours a week for the next 50 or so years. (Or maybe longer…what’s the deal with Social Security?)
During rare moments of joy I recognize how lucky I am to be at a point in my life where I do not have to follow a plan. Unlike the past 16 years, my life today is entirely open. But how do we see opportunity and seize it, instead of holing up on our parents couch with bad popcorn? How do we not fall into a trap of getting a job that makes us wish we were holing up on our parents couch with bad popcorn? How do we have the courage to explore our interests, maybe even our desires? Again, I am not a person with answers, I am a person with anxiety, but here are the three things I’m doing during this strange period of freedom and fear:
1. Focusing on specific companies vs. specific positions
I’m not going to know in the next couple of days what I want my career to be, and I don’t expect to have my dream job out of college. By looking at the company as opposed to what my precise role would be I’m hoping to work in an environment that suits me, with room to grow, with people who are inspiring potential mentors. Obviously the position is important but I don’t want to be too put off by what might just be a stepping-stone position, especially if the industry is interesting to me.
2. Beefing up hobbies
I always loved doing yoga and now I’m taking a leap and getting my certification. It’s not that I think I’m going to become the CEO of yoga, but it’s nice to know that I can make a little extra money off of something I really like doing. Plus, I’m learning so much more about what I love and meeting people with off-the-beaten-path careers who are serving as an inspiration.
3. Establishing standards
I keep a mental list of things I would never, ever want to do because sometimes it’s tempting to apply for something that pays well even if it goes against our moral compass or is really dull. Some things on my never list include banking, anything in a lab and (somewhat reluctantly) escorting.
I’m sure I’ll look back on this time in my life and say it was a great period of growth. But in the meantime I am here, raking the internet for postings and trying not to start on the tube of Pillsbury cookie dough that is too easy to squeeze into my mouth.