Forget the fact that our generation has the most student loan debt of any other, which severely limits and deters new college grads from taking risks once they graduate. And don’t think about how the job market is absolutely horrendous and will not return to normal rates for at least a few years. Apparently when we graduate we are supposed to find a job. This is something I have theoretically known for a while, but it is only now, with every person I know hounding me about what I am going to do when I graduate, that it has really sunk in. Every day that passes by of my senior year is another day that I haven’t figured out what I am going to do when I graduate and another day closer to supposedly doing what I haven’t decided to do. It’s exhausting and stressful, but mostly it is absolutely terrifying. Because the question of what I want do when I graduate inevitably leads to the question of “What do I want to do with my life?” and that is a question that I try to avoid like the plague.
While I know that whatever I decide to do when I graduate is not necessarily what I will do for the rest of my life, I am reaching the point where I am no longer preparing for the rest of my life, but actually starting to live it. And so yes, I can hopscotch from job to job, from career to career in my 20s and maybe even in my 30s. But each superfluous job or sidetrack could be viewed as less time spent progressing in whatever career I end up in. And so the sooner I decide on something, theoretically the better.
To me it is utterly preposterous that a 20-something is supposed to decide what he will do for the rest of his existence. I reject it out of hand. Why would 50-year-old me want to be stuck doing something that lazy, ignorant but devastatingly handsome 21-year-old me decided on? I made decisions a week ago that I already regret, how am I supposed to expect to be the same in 30 of 40 years? Past me will often make decisions without thinking about how it will affect future me. These can range from things as trivial as leaving a paper to the night before or eating a chipotle burrito with extra beans to as consequential as choosing which college to attend. Either way I am at the mercy of my former self. We are, after all, selfish beings and the victims of our selfishness can often be ourselves.
But this is in the end the society we have all bought into. We did all of the usual school things: worked hard, got good grades, went to a good college and are apparently expected to continue on that trajectory to some sort of career. Once we finish our career, whatever it might be, we either look back upon it happily, feeling that whatever we did was worthwhile or we spend the rest of our adult diapered days regretting our past decisions. But that’s it. We can’t take it back, can’t do it over or learn from our lessons and try again. As much as I hate the idiocy that comes with “YOLO,” perhaps there is some truth to it. Even more so than death, I am absolutely terrified of reaching old age and coming to the realization that the path I went down was the wrong one.
Maybe I am not as fortunate as some of my peers who have come into college knowing their path, knowing what they were going to do with their lives for years. And perhaps I am to blame for my indecisiveness and lack of initiative. But never before have I been faced with a decision that could be a permanent fixture in the rest of my life. What happens if 10 years into my career path I suddenly feel like I have made the wrong decision? What happens when it is too late to do something else? Soon I will be hurtling myself down a road that could be the wrong one, that could make me spend the rest of my life in abject misery. Wish me luck.
Dan Rosen is a senior in the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning. He may be reached at email@example.com. Smell the Rosen appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.