What do you want to do with the rest of your life?
It’s job hunting season, everyone. Employers feel it. I feel it. My dog feels it.
As seniors grind toward graduation day, the pressure builds.
After crossing that stage we have the big project due: landing a job.
It’s this job that your parents and grandparents and neighbors and random people at the grocery store have been asking you about all your life, what do you want to do with the rest of your life?
I can still see their faces all scrunched up with vague interest.
It’s no concern to passers-by who are just striking up easy conversation.
But the question is a source of severe anxiety for young people.
Here’s what I think about that question: it’s stupid.
Sure, it might get the gears grinding as you work towards answering it.
But it’s counterproductive due to its paralytic nature. What must one do for the next fifty plus years?
For some people, a lifetime is a long time.
Sitting down and picturing yourself at a desk or behind a camera for several decades contradicts the reality of what’s ahead.
The future isn’t fixed after a successful interview.
A lifetime isn’t filled out by one, singular job.
It’s filled out with several jobs, maybe even years of unemployment.
It’s filled with quitting a place and walking with your head up out the doors and then scrambling for a new vocation.
It’s paying for bills and filing taxes.
It’s remembering to walk the dog and call your mom.
Keeping this age-old question on such a high pedestal is an unhealthy practice.
It makes the future sound fixed and solid when it is so volatile with the choices not yet made.
Does that mean you quit looking for your “dream job?”
Being someone who has always known what she’s wanted to do with her life, she has that one to-do box checked off.
That’s not the case for everyone.
Not everyone decided in tenth grade that they wanted to pursue an English degree so they could become an editor in pantsuits who decided the fate of hopeful manuscripts.
If they did, they’d have to fight me.
And that’s ok.
Knowing what you want to do with your entire life is all a farce.
Having an answer to it will get nosy passers-by off your back, but it won’t solve any other problems.
Instead, maybe take control of the situation.
First, try avoiding social environments where you’re most likely to bump into people you know. Statistically, strangers won’t confront you about your lifelong ambitions as likely as your next door neighbor.
If this is unavoidable, turn the question around and ask them what they did their whole life.
But if they tie you down in a chair and shove a bright lamp in your face, just reframe the question.
Say, “You mean, what can I do with the degree I’ve just earned?” And explore from there.
Discover the next step.
And if no one has told you this lately, it’s all going to be ok.
Human beings are innovative and adaptable creatures. We’ll get to where we’re going.
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