As my 18 year journey through the education system comes to an end, I have discovered I am wildly unprepared for independence and adulthood. Up until this point, life has been easy. All of the goals I had were widely sought and relatively easy to achieve: get good grades, get into a good college, and graduate from said school without a beer gut. The rigidity of life and expectations were great for someone like me who takes comfort in certainty and submission. They made it easier to ignore thinking about the future, easier to feel successful despite not having any real overarching goals because of the distractions of more immediate objectives. Instead of thinking about where I wanted to be after graduation, or what I wanted to do for work, I could just throw myself into work or school to avoid having to address those things. But now that I am moving away from established expectations, I am forced to take life into my own hands, and I’m not sure how prepared I am for that.
I like being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Change is something I would rather not fuck with. The reality is, however, that at some point people stop dictating your life, and you’re required to become an adult and make decisions on your own; you become responsible for determining what will make you happiest. For so long happiness to me had been predicated on the idea of career fulfillment, but now I don’t even know what I want to do for a career. Do I want to work in publishing, media, or television? Should I stay in Boston or move elsewhere? Should I just become a low grade hooker? I have no clue anymore.
Routinely I scroll through job postings and stare at them blankly as the abstract concept of the future becomes increasingly more concrete. I no longer have to simply think about what job I’d like to have in theory, but I have to think about what entry level position would set me up for career growth, and where I want to be, and the personal and financial sacrifices I may have to make to get where I want. It’s an exhausting process; I feel like a 22 year old burnout. A few months ago I would have never imagined moving home to regroup, but now I feel like I need to get off the boat and yack for a while before trying to set sails toward my future. The odds of this sounding self-indulgent and whiny are probably high. I know most people would say “you’re 22, you don’t need to know what you’re doing”, or “take a risk”, but that’s not advice that sits well with people who feel lost without certainty and comfort. After years of being told what to do and how to do it we cannot be expected to immediately know how to operate on our own or know how to define success on an individual level.
The hectic nature of senior year makes it difficult to find the time to ponder career questions. There is nothing worse than having to write a million cover letters on top of a mountain of essays and exams, and the last thing I want to do is to take a job I do not actually want in order to appear more put together than I am. I know that my first career job will not dictate the rest of my life, but I am terrified of going the wrong way and realizing I made a mistake too late in the game. I do not want to invest so much emotional energy into my career that I am unable to derive happiness from anything else, but I also do not want to settle or feel unfulfilled. Perhaps the best decision would be to take a step back and reevaluate my life, or look at my first job as yet another learning experience rather than see it as the first step toward a specific end. Maybe it is okay to not have a real end goal. Either way it is probably best to not torture myself over my indecision and confusion. I am a late bloomer who needs a bit of time to transition away from nearly two decades of structured living. Staying home for a little, or working a job that is not necessarily going to lead to my future career are okay things to do for the time being. Some of us need a bit more time to adjust to change and that’s okay. It’s okay to be lost as long as you stay determined enough to find the path.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson