When I was a senior in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
I had no passions, no clue where to go to school, no idea where I wanted to end up and didn’t know what to do when I graduated. At the end of my senior year, I filled out a lot of scholarship applications. On every application, there was always the question: “What are your career and life goals? Describe them below.”
Whenever I was asked that, I would answer it in a way so that it related to the scholarship I was filling out. Since I had no decided career plans, I decided that meant I could pretend I was considering everything. If I was filling out an application for women who planned to go into technology, I would say I wanted to be an engineer (I didn’t want to). If I was filling out an application for potential scientists, I would say I wanted to be a chemist (I definitely didn’t want to). You get the picture.
Though it was unethical, I had a pretty good strategy going. One time, I filled out an application for a student council scholarship (I went to five meetings in four years, so I deemed myself a member). I had already filled out too many applications to count and I knew I had absolutely no chance of winning, so I filled it out honestly.
When I was prompted to “Explain how I would use the leadership skills I learned in student council in my future career,” I cracked.
Instead of stretching the truth as I had been doing, my ballsy self answered the question with 100 percent honesty. I quoted a graduation speech I had read a few weeks earlier by a student from another school named Erica Goldson. The quote was this:
“While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.”
Needless to say, I didn’t get the scholarship.
But, when I feel the panic of cluelessness that I felt as a high school senior, I always think back to that quote and think how true it is for me and many other students.
And, lately, I have been thinking about it a lot, because I’m in the exact same position now.
Like many other Ferris students, my time here is coming to an end. In six months, I’ll be done with my undergraduate education. After being told what to do for 21 years, I will be handed a piece of paper signifying that I can now be a real, working adult—which is what I’ll be expected to do.
And, quite frankly, that is terrifying. I know that I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to come May, but when you’re in your last year of college, there is a certain pressure to get a kick-ass job and show that you made something of yourself. The constant questions of, “What do you want to do? Have you applied for jobs yet? Where do you want to work? Are you going to move somewhere?” can induce an anxiety attack when the best answer you can provide is a timid “I don’t know.”
And you know what? I don’t know. I have absolutely no clue.
Sure, I have interests, but most of them have stemmed from internships, jobs or things I enjoy on my own time completely unrelated to school. I’ve loved the internships I’ve done, but I’m not sure I would have if they had lasted longer than a few months. I’ve also had classes I’ve enjoyed, but none that have piqued my interest enough to help me figure out where and how I want to spend 40 hours of my life every week.
The thought of having a real, 9-to-5 career is crazy. I’m going to go from taking two-hour naps at 1 p.m. and doing homework until 1 a.m. to working for eight hours straight at the same desk? What?
Now, I know this isn’t the case for many students. I know a lot of people who found their passion in college, know for sure what they want to do in life and can’t wait to start their career.
However, I know more people who are scared and half-heartedly considering life paths that just sound “okay” because they don’t really know what else to do.
We are taught to work the system, but what do we do when we’re almost out of the system and we’re still as clueless as we were when we entered? I wish the 9-to-5 job wasn’t the expectation of life after college, because it is going to be a wake up call for those (myself included) who were memorizing definitions of abstract terms a few weeks prior.