“What do you want to do after graduation?”
I’ve answered this question one million times, and I always make a point to answer in the same way: “Your guess is as good as mine.”
Oh, how I wish I had a snapshot of their faces.
Nervous laughter gives way to confusion and then a look of genuine pity as if I must have hit a quarter-life crisis or exhausted all of my options. Judging by their expressions, you would think I just signed a 20-year lease for my parent’s basement.
I’ve always found these encounters to be pretty amusing. Not because I don’t take my life after college seriously, but because I’m fairly certain that my lack of a plan tends to stress other people out more than me.
Entertaining as it may be, I can’t help but wonder if young adults are becoming progressively confined by a competitive, driven culture that makes no apologies for hosting a nationwide rat-race.
It’s concerning that we all feel the need to establish what we’re going to do with the rest of our lives in a mere four years at college. And let’s be honest, at least two of those years were spent wild and free, gallivanting around campus with barely an ounce of responsibility. As it should be, of course. But why does the exploration stop after four years?
For as long as I can remember, life has been a mad-dash for the American Dream. We attend high school to go to college, to land an internship and finally, to find a job. Nobody has to convince us to follow that path because we’re conditioned to associate happiness with success, and success with financial security. Money makes the world go ‘round.
The problem is that when people are motivated by money or status, it changes the way they pick a career. Suddenly finding a direct, efficient route takes precedence over passion. They start climbing the ladder straight up and forget to look around.
Americans are notorious for working so hard that they fail to indulge in simple things, like conversation and sleep. Compared with nations like France, where citizens get a whopping 37 days of paid leave, our vacation days are a fraction of that time off.
According to Forbes, Norway has been ranked the happiest country in the world. Ninety-five percent say they are satisfied with the freedom to choose the direction of their lives.
It sounds so obvious, choosing a direction for our lives. Yet sometimes, I think we’ve forgotten that there is a choice.
There is more than one way to live a good, happy life, and we should feel free to do things in the order that suits us best. We have more than four years to decide what we’re going to do with the rest of our lives and a path that knows no bounds.
Where will it take us? Your guess is as good as mine.
Carly Samuelson can be reached at email@example.com.