(Written with Emma St. Aubin)
What are you doing after you graduate?”
What a seemingly deadly question.
Is it just me, or do very few of us know exactly where we want to be five years from now? For the confused and the frightened, the future is a gnarly place.
Who am I? What am I doing with my life? Should I switch my major to something totally different? Is everyone else actually happier than me, or are they just better at pretending? What would make me happy? Chances are these reoccurring questions never find an answer.
As the average college student nears the end of his or her academic career, he or she appears to have it all together, with a major and a nice group of friends. Truth is, you have no idea whatsoever what you want to do with your life. You have to apply for jobs soon, and you have no inkling what you actually want to do. You’re freaking out.
But it’s okay. That’s normal. You’re going through something almost everyone in their twenties is going through.
This phenomenon, more commonly known as a “quarter-life crisis,” is a period in which a person begins to doubt his or her life, brought on by the stress of becoming an adult and entering the “real world.” Overwhelming choices regarding careers, finances, homes, new responsibilities and new options all lead to the stress, anxiety and feelings of helplessness of many twentysomethings.
How does one find a blissful career, a reasonably priced home, good friends and become a happy, well-adjusted, functioning member of society? Euphoria, emotional breakdowns, procrastination and overthinking at 3 a.m. are all part of the journey. Although it may be hell, it is also pure bliss. As my mother once told me, you’ll never forget your twenties because that’s when you become who you are.
Even if there is a small list stashed away somewhere in your bedroom filled with all of your hopes and dreams, getting to those dreams seems impossible without a step-by-step manual.
It’s a little strange to think about, but life will soon be completely different. You will be living in a new place with new people. The friends that you have now may be scattered around the world. These are the last moments that you will all be together, quite possibly for the rest of your lives. And that’s (made-up word alert) bittersweetly scary.
As graduation nears, the doors to the real world are slowly opening while we near them with overwhelming anxiety. However, over time, those doors will close. Possibly because of things you did, or maybe because of things you didn’t do. That may be the driving factor behind each unique, anxiety-filled quarter-life crisis.
As twentysomethings, we spend our days buried within textbooks, traveling abroad “while we still can” and working forty-hour weeks at minimum wage. We are moved by dreams of adult happiness but take those dreams with a grain of salt, since we view those dreams as impossible.
Whether your idea of adulthood formed from college experiences, during a summer job or from an unforgettable and inspiring trip, wherever you start out won’t determine where you end up, but it will determine how you get there.
Our future is entirely uncertain and entirely up to us. There’s no more hiding behind grades and others’ expectations. Up until now, we knew what we had to do all of our lives. We had to get good grades to get to college, and once we were in college we had to graduate.
But now what? There are no expectations for us anymore. We have to create our own expectations. That’s a lot of pressure.
It’s time to set our expectations high. This is the moment of our lives that we actually get to follow our dreams and do what we love. This isn’t a crisis but an opportunity for excitement. So do it. Go forward and do what you’ve been waiting to do your whole life.
Printed in The Pointer Newspaper