Spending the holidays at home with my family during Christmas is usually my favourite time of year. I look forward to the smell of fresh tomato sauce wafting through my Nonna’s house and homemade lasagna cooking in the oven for Christmas dinner.
But this Christmas was different for me. You know the drill, with graduation hovering closely over my head, every family member I saw asked the same question, “So, what do you plan to do with your life now?”
What do I plan to do with my life now?
I stare at them wide-eyed and dismayed. What a loaded question to ask a 21-year-old who is about to finish her undergrad and who doesn’t have any form of a real solid plan after that.
Look, I get it. I understand why adults feel the need to ask that question so often and they’re allowed to be curious.
So my regular answer became, “Well, for now I’m going to Italy to complete my internship and then I’m going to figure it out.”
But that answer never seemed like quite enough to satisfy my family members. Instead, they would offer suggestions for what I should look into, where I should consider applying and what great companies I could work for — and the list goes on.
I’ve never told them, but on countless occasions, I have left feeling depleted after those conversations — almost like a failure for not being able to give them a concrete answer that I have a solidified plan for a job after graduation.
As someone who has struggled in the past with my mental health, depression liked to sneak up on me whenever it came to my future career prospects. I felt alone for not knowing exactly where I wanted to end up or who I wanted to work for. Adding external pressures from family on top of feeling a bit lost is really difficult.
It’s not to say that I don’t have any ideas at all for what I want to do as graduation creeps nearer, because the truth is, I actually have many. Instead of rushing into a job for the sake of feeling like that’s what I should do, I want to follow my curiosity and try out different things until I find one that feels really good to me.
In reality, so many of my friends are in the exact same boat as me; not knowing exactly what they want to pursue after graduation yet they have passions, ideas and curiosities they’d like to explore.
At the end of the day, isn’t it more important to try to pursue what you’re truly passionate about, than be stuck in a job that you hate?
Most of the pressure we put on ourselves to have it all figured out by graduation is societally constructed.
Society has told us what a proper vision of success should look like: attending university or college, finishing four years of school with a piece of paper in your hand, finding a great 9 to 5 job that pays well, getting married, and having a family.
Not everyone wants a 9 to 5 job. Not everyone wants to get married. Not everyone wants to have a family.
And guess what? That’s perfectly okay.
Success means different things to different people.
For me, success means living a life that’s enriching. Getting to know other places, cultures and people. For me, maybe a 9 to 5 job doesn’t necessarily fit into my idea of “successful” living.
Instead, I plan to follow my curiosity. Learn about other cultures and people, read more books, learn Italian. Ensuring that whatever job I end up in, or however I end up making an income, will involve me waking up everyday feeling excited about the work that I’m doing.
It’s how we should all feel. For now, I intend to enjoy the journey. You should too.