Monday, 31 July 2017

Dealing with the Pressure to Choose Your Future

What "future" will you choose?

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

The world spins as I try to remember the answer I’ve been rehearsing. “Communications -  maybe editing,” I say. I figure that’s a good enough answer for someone who is going to graduate with an English degree.


“That’s good. When I was your age, I wish I got into all that computer stuff. There’s so much money in it now! Of course, being a lawyer is always an option, even with an Arts degree.”

Why is this happening? Why is this question so hard? Why does it send me into an existential tailspin?


We all want the answer to this question to be easy. As a university student, you might even say that it’s my goal: I’m going to be an accountant. A nurse. A doctor. A lawyer. An engineer. I just want a career that is one word, easily understood, and valuable to society.

For years I envied students in specified programs because they could do just that. In fact, most of the time they never even got asked the question because their degree was the answer. You study nursing and you’re going to be a nurse — even if this isn’t necessarily the truth. People fill in their blanks for you, without ever wondering about the other options you may have.


Despite my envy, I’m content with my decision. I decided to get an Arts degree for the same reason why people are afraid to get one: I don’t know what I can get out of it. I don’t know what kind of job I can get. There is no single answer. I already know the answer to the question, but it’s complicated, far too long, and I assume nobody wants to hear it: I’m keeping my options open, not committing to one specific job, but wanting to gain experience in numerous ones. Who knows, I may even switch up my career a few times in my life.

I actually gave people this answer a few times, but none of them seemed to react the way I wanted them to. All they would do is nod — which seemed worse than before, considering that previously I would at least get a few words of encouragement. I filled in their silence myself, which to me seemed to say, “Good luck with that. It seems like you have nothing figured out. You should get on that.”

I know that this probably isn’t the truth. But when you’re a student with absolutely no idea what your future is going to look like, it’s easy to assume the worst.


Perhaps the worst part about the question and the answer is that we never plan to be unsure. As a child and even as a teenager, we — at the very least — plan to have our lives figured out by the time we’ve graduated post-secondary, or hit 21, or perhaps even graduated high school. We had an age in our head where we thought, “Yeah, I’m gonna have it all figured out by then. Well, maybe not everything. But the important stuff. Like, choosing a career.” Then BAM, you’re in university, barely choosing a program/major, not entirely sure if you want to commit yourself to one career for the rest of your life, and omg you’re graduating school soon and have to apply for jobs which means you have to choose a job and omg help!


If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m scared. Terrified, even. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a clue what’s coming next. I have to make a decision — a decision that might just determine the rest of my life.

But there’s one moment; just after someone has asked me the question and just before my mind gives itself time to even think about the answer. This moment is critical, because it’s my gut. It’s what I want to say and think and do for the rest of my life. Freud might have even called it my id.

This moment gives me the answer. It grabs me by the shoulders, looks me dead in the eyes and says, “Trust yourself. You’re gonna be fine.”

And before I know it, I’m already saying the answer. It’s perfect; an answer that answers nothing. It is:

“I don’t know.”


Rachel - YouAlberta Contributor

After spending a year in work experience being too cool for school, Rachel is spending the last year of her English degree eating as many $1 donuts from the Undergrind as she can. When not on campus, she's snuggling up to her gecko and eagerly awaiting another season of Arrested Development.

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