Confessions of a Confused College Student: "I Actually Have No Idea What I Want to Do."
After completing my grueling finals week last Thursday I decided to check in with my professor on a potential research project. But as it turns out, what was originally intended to be a "speedy" research check in left me feeling a combination of thrill and terror as I came to the stark realization that I really do not know what I want to do with my major/career…Here’s how my startling realization all began:
After briefly recapping my research finds, I confidently informed my professor about my newest academic ventures, proudly stating “So update—I am definitely adding a minor in Psychology or Industrial Technology in order to pursue Industrial Organizational Psychology after I graduate.”
“That is great,” he responded. And before I knew it the conversation quickly proceeded to the next topic of interest and my professor told me about the new entrepreneurial business class he is developing. After all my talk about IO Psych, I am guessing he wanted to make sure I was still as enthusiastic to be apart of his rigorous course as I previously was.
Eager to reassure my professor, I quickly responded, “Of course I do. I have been telling everyone I know about it. I also looked into the Hackathon and the entrepreneurial club you told me about—I am thoroughly impressed with their club and intrigued by the passion behind so many of their ventures.”
I could tell he was thrilled that I was discovering so many new career options, but he also had a tint of reservation on his face as he cautiously told me, “the entrepreneurial path and IO Psychology Ph.D are pretty different options.”
To which I shamefully muttered, “See that is my problem. I have so many ideas and passions, yet I have no idea what I actually want to do.” Wait, wait, so after all those in depth discussions about a a variety of polar opposite post grad paths, I really have no idea what I want to do? Yep—basically. Because despite my not so impressive ability to spit out several sophisticated career options when my pride is pressed, I remain partially clueless.
I have never been one of the dare I say fortunate(?) individuals who has a distinct calling towards a particular major or occupation. Nevertheless, my lack of a central or distinct calling never previously prevented me from feeling satisfied with my humble and versatile Communication Studies major—well that is, not before this past quarter at Cal Poly.
Suddenly something shifted this quarter, and I can only hope that the uneasy pressure I experienced is not a foreign pressure to my fellow millennials.
Because somehow in the midst of being surrounded by so many passionate intellects and an environment that over emphasizes resumes and paper perfect futures, my pride has taken the best of me. I somehow found it necessary to declare and justify my competence to others...But as I walked away from my professor’s office hours, I asked myself for the first time, “Why do I need to justify my future/major?”
And after thinking about it further, I am pretty convinced that my need stems from a variety of irrational concerns….
What type of irrational concerns? Well, first I am concerned that what society now classifies (whether accurately or not) as a “fluffy” Liberal Arts degree will not translate into a successful career. I often wonder if I have the skills that employers want, and even more importantly, if the type of skills employers want me to have will translate into meaning in my job. For example, will my passion for research and effective communication actually lead me to a job where I can utilize my passions, or will I be stuck behind a desk doing monotonous P.R. work for a majority of my post grad career?
I find personal fulfillment by counseling and relating to people: I have a passion for being honest, authentic and addressing real issues that our society carelessly skims over. But there lie one of my problems: a passionate heart is not exactly a transferrable skill or a characteristic that is hardly ever related to a high-paying and prestigious career.
Essentially my array of irrational concerns can be boiled down to this one question:
“Given my interests, will I ever find work that is both meaningful and respected?”
Surprisingly however, as I shamefully muttered, “I really don’t know what I want to do," reality hit me like a lightening bolt, and I decided to ask myself, “respected and meaningful work” to who? To me, or to my peers/society?
What I realized today is that I am not immune to the pressures to conform and brand myself in an increasingly corporate and competitive world. However in the midst of doing so— I concede a central piece of who I am and fail to consider my unique passions, interests, etc. Realizing said pressures also lead me to finally admit that my future is entirely unknown and fortunately will probably be so for the next several years…
All this to say: starting today I want to work to relinquish my need to declare and therefore justify my future to myself, society or my peers. Instead I truly want to learn how to be content with the unknown, the unconventional, and whatever other divergent paths God decides to take me on. And in the prospect of my personal career, I want to be content to pick meaning and happiness over financial prosperity or social respect.
And if you are reading this my fellow millennial and relate in any way, shape or form-- please know that despite our generation's ability to fake it till they make it, there is freedom is realizing that faking it is not necessary. Not only is there freedom in realizing said truth, but there is also infinite growth and beauty found by exploring our passions and accepting uncertainty.