Feel that chilly breeze of dread in the air? That unmistakeable smell of fear mixed with hope and anxiety? That’s right, children, it’s graduation season.
Now, I’m not here with any scary graduation stories. It’s a perfectly fine day and, to be honest, you don’t even feel that upset while it’s happening. The magnitude of graduating college and transitioning into, you know, your actual life, is far too large to really be felt during the never-ending speeches and tassel-moving. It’s usually not until August rolls around and you don’t start packing up for school that it even feels real at all. But when it starts to feel real, oh boy, does it suck. It sucks in that super-painful, bittersweet way that’s really hard to articulate. You feel really old and really young at the same time. You’ll probably cry a little bit because it’s just really overwhelming feeling every known and unknown emotion in the whole wide world at the same time. You’ll feel really uncertain about what comes next and begin to reflect on you past. Specifically if past you, in all her 19-year-old vodka-cranberry-drinking-wisdom, made the right choices to help out Future You. And then you might panic.
Because well, fuck, you never really thought you needed a plan. And maybe you were wrong. And you were. Well, are. Sorta. Here me out.
You don’t need a plan for after graduation… but it also couldn’t hurt to have one.
I am definitely not saying to create some psycho “Five Year Plan” because let’s face it, that shit is doomed to fail. We all knew kids in college who had plans like this. They randomly decided to become a doctor when they were like, 12 years old, and then never thought to even question their decision ever again and did no research into what it actually takes to become a doctor. So then they showed up to college as biology majors and failed nearly everything because they didn’t have the objectivity to realize they weren’t good at, and hated, science. But damn it they still applied to medical school because it was part of their plan. And of course they didn’t get in because, hi, they had like, a 2.7 GPA and couldn’t micro-pipette for shit. So what are they doing now? Flailing, but of course.
You should make the opposite of this plan. Because all a five-year plan does is stress you out and set you up for failure. Five-year plans always somehow seem to forget that life doesn’t give a shit about your five-year plan, but that it does love to throw you curve-balls. Instead you should make the anti-five-year plan. Call it something really boring and generic like “long-term goals.” Maybe one day you think you’d like to own your own business, or go to law school (please, God, read up on that one because unless you’re really smart chances are you’ll end up in debt and miserable). Or maybe you want to try to become fluent in Spanish, or eventually join the Peace Corps. Or maybe you don’t really know what you’re truly passionate about but you are willing to explore and learn more in order to find out. All equally admirable goals, as far as I’m concerned.
Now, instead of creating intricate study schedules and charts that look like something the Zodiac Killer jotted down, start learning more about your long-term goals. What it takes to achieve them, who’s successful at them, what’s the history behind them. Allow yourself to explore and do the legwork needed to make yourself passionate about an interest/career/hobby and then allow that passion to inform how you pursue it. Because odds are, when you’re actually passionate about something, you end up chasing after it harder, better, faster, and stronger than everyone else.
Always keep these long-term goals in the back of your mind, and they’ll make going about the rest of your life post-graduation a smidgen less terrible. It’s the plan that can only help you, not hurt you. Be open to them evolving, or even changing entirely. Basically, be prepared to go with the flow that your passions and research show you.
Plus, when your annoying relatives ask you what you’re doing with your life, you can answer “well, right now I’m focusing on XYZ in order to pursue blah, blah, blah in the future.”
Just anything to shut them up..