In just two short weeks, I will be walking across the stage at commencement. I will have a huge grin on my face, searching the crowed for my family, and praying to every God imaginable that I don’t trip. I will be ecstatic that I have finally accomplished my dream. All of that is to be expected, because graduating is an amazing thing that not everyone is able to experience. The one thing I am the most excited about, the one thing no one ever talks about, is I will never ever get the question “So what are you going to do after you graduate?”, or the even more aggravating question “Are you going to teach?” I, for a long time, got so tired of hearing these questions that I just started to respond with things like “I think I’m going to get my PhD in quantum mechanics.”
I say this with the full knowledge that I am now going to get a much different question, “Have you decided what you’re going to do yet?” I imagine somehow, some way, people are going to find a way to ask if I’m teaching or where I’m teaching. NEWS FLASH TO THE WORLD: just because I have an English degree DOES NOT mean that I want to teach. I know this shouldn’t aggravate me nearly as much as it does, but if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I was teaching, I could have probably already paid off my student loans by now. Not that there is anything wrong with teaching, I have the highest respect for teachers and professors; teaching just isn’t my calling.
I think after a while, I became so caught up in telling people that I didn’t want to teach, that I forgot to actually figure out what I want to do. I’m giving myself an anxiety attack just thinking about not knowing what’s next. If you’re in the same boat as me, or swimming around near it, I might have some ideas to help you figure out what to do next. I know this was the wrong way to do things, I should have been trying to figure out the rest of my life last year, but I didn’t become an English major to be set on one specific path. I became an English major because I love to read, I love storytelling and writing, and I really thought I would have my first novel finished by now (kidding… kinda). I think one thing that’s so amazing about this degree is I can go into any field that I want and there will be a place for me. What that field is, I’m not sure.
What I’ve started to do in these final weeks is write down everything I’ve ever thought I wanted to be in my life on a big poster board. When I say everything, I mean everything. My list says Broadway Star, not tangible, but it’s there for a reason. Once I wrote down everything I could think of, I started to look for patterns. I began to put colored dots next to things that would overlap in some way. Then I started to write on a separate sheet all the jobs each color could represent. Sticking with the Broadway Star, I wrote down singer, actress, writer, and dancer. Well, I can’t sing or dance, but I can write, so on my separate list I wrote Playwright. This is a great example, but also a bad example, because becoming a playwright isn’t nearly as easy as I’m making it sound, but you get the idea. There did start to be useful careers like Journalist, Lawyer, and Publisher.
I know what you’re thinking, “This is nice and all, but it’s not actually helping me decide what to with the rest of my life.” You’re right, it’s not helping you decide, because I can’t do that. No one can decide for you, not your mom, not your dad, not your grandparents, and especially not some strange girl on a blog. The only person who can decide what your next move is, is you. I know that’s super cliché, but it’s true.
I guess my point here is this: don’t worry about what everyone else wants from you. Be true to yourself. Only you can decide your next move, and anything that you’re not 100% sure about is probably not for you. You are an English major, you can’t be expected to do exactly like everyone else does. So take your time, expand your interests. Take some cheap random courses at a community college, or take a trip to a country where you don’t speak the language. Just go out there and find where your passion takes you. You won’t regret it.
As for me? I think for now I’m going to try and find some freelance writing jobs, and maybe work on my singing voice. You never know, right?
– Alanna Manser