You control what’s next

When you’re in the final months of your undergrad, the most — I repeat the most — frustrating question you will receive is also going to be the most repetitive.

“What are you going to do once you graduate?”

It’s a simple question that will be asked the minute you enter your final year of studies. It generates a parade of awkward answers, rolling of eyes and anxious stomach-tying knots.

It sucks, but it’s inevitable — everybody is expected to have a plan.

Why? Because if you’re like the vast majority of the university-educated population — the ones who don’t have a co-op on your resume or who didn’t work at a “big boy job” — the answer to “what’s your next step?” is going to be just as blunt and empty as the question itself: “I don’t know.” And I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone.

My first encounter with this conversation came at Thanksgiving when my cousin asked me about my future plans.

“Ash,” he said as he leaned over the dinner table. “You’re studying English right? What the f*** are you going to do with that?”

My cousin, who is only two years older than I, went down the token business-kid route. At the tender age of 23 he had already secured a full-time position at Scotia Bank courtesy of his mom and dad.

My brother, similarly, worked at an office job the summer before he graduated from Western University, only to have them offer him a job once he was finished his degree. But not everyone is that lucky.

We live in a society that demands its citizens to plan out their daily lives, always thinking about the next big step.

Whether it was in high school where we were forced to select a career path, or as young adults who are being asked to somehow make money from the things that we learned in school, or even when we finally enter the work force answering where we “see ourselves in five years,” society’s children are being required to make decisions at cross-roads they haven’t even reached yet.

Of course, like all things in life, difficult decisions are going to have to be made. I’d also like to branch outside this whole concept of making decisions to focus more on those who are asking the question.

For those who are genuinely curious about a student’s next step, I applaud your interest and general concern.

However, for those who bring it upon themselves to offer unwanted advice, career recommendations or condescending attitudes, your input does not alleviate the problem, it just intensifies it.

If a student is planning on travelling for a year, let them travel. They want to attain a master’s degree for a subject you find irrelevant, let them learn. If we want to take on an unpaid internship in an industry we love even though there is no promise of it turning into full-time employment, I say: “go for it”.

We are never going to be as free and liberated as we are right now in this stage of our lives. Possibilities are infinite and opportunities are everywhere.

Put away the signs pointing our youth in a certain direction that are asking them to worry about the two steps ahead.

Let them take their time, find their own path and make their own decisions however long that may take.

Yes, eventually you are going to have to come to terms with your eventual graduation, enter the real world, get a job, start a family — all of that conventional mumbo-jumbo that your mom keeps bugging you about.

But my greater point is that no, you don’t have to have all of the answers right now. If you don’t have a job lined up in May that doesn’t mean you’ve failed the university system.

In fact, at this point in my life, the only decision I have made is that I will not decide on one job, one option or one career in my twenties only to get stuck in this 9-5 work week special.

So, whenever a family member, a friend, or even some random at a bar asks me “what I want to do when I graduate” once they find out I am leaving Laurier in May, I now say the following:

“Talk to me in three months.”

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