What Do You Want To Do With Your Life?

Written by Annabelle Parr

As a senior in high school, I remember getting tired of answering questions related to college. It seemed as though college was the only topic of conversation available to me and the rest of the world. But by March of that year, I had concrete answers to all of these questions. I had picked a school that I loved and was confident in my decision.

What I realize now, as a junior at Cal Poly, is that questions related to college were easy. They had concrete answers. The questions people ask about my future now are not so straightforward. The most common questions that I have to answer are: “What is your major?” and “What do you want to do after college?” I can easily answer that my major is psychology, but then I have to explain that I do not want to be a psychologist or a researcher – the most common careers for a psychology major. In fact, I have a list of things that I do not want to do, but no clue as to what I do want.

I often feel ashamed that I have no answer in regard to what I want to do with my life. I have spent my whole life in school, working as hard as I can, but with no real end goal in sight. Elementary school was preparation for middle school, which was preparation for high school, which was primarily meant to get me to college. Yet now, I am in college, learning about a subject that I find both fascinating and applicable to my life, but I don’t have a concrete next step that I am actively working towards. The next step is a career. A.k.a. a giant question mark. All of my life I was on a linear path with clear goals, but now it feels like I am stumbling about in the dark, enjoying college – the last concrete goal I had – but scared to death of what comes next.

Given that shame and fear tend to be the feelings I associate with questions related to my future, I don’t particularly enjoy explaining my situation to others. However, every now and again, I receive little pieces of wisdom and reassurance from adults who have been in my position of uncertainty, and have come out the other side into a career they love. In the last couple of months, I have received so many pieces of wisdom that I decided to bring them all together here.

The inspiration for this post came from a man named Mark, who works as the Ambassador of Joy at a Kitchen and Bath company called Pirch. I explained to him that while I am passionate about writing and studying psychology, I am lost as to the type of career that I want. He shared with me his story of how he left his job as an investment banker to become a snowboard instructor, and then found his way into a career working to design company culture. As a result, he is now in a job he loves and is passionate about. I was inspired by Mark’s story because he took a bold move to seek joy and passion in his job, rather than settle for a job that was simply well paid. He took a risk in taking time off to have some fun and figure out who he was and what he wanted. And I loved what he had to say to me in regard to my own future.

He told me that you can’t go wrong when you come out of college as long as you go somewhere to develop a skill, find a mentor to learn from, and get pushed out of your comfort zone in some way. He said that it is important to develop your skills and talents because those always stay with you, and learning who you are is vital. He reassured me that it’s okay that my answer to “what do you want to do with your life?” is “I don’t know and I shouldn’t have to.”

Already feeling less ashamed of my question mark future, I received another piece of wisdom from my advisor at school. He reminded me that the reason this whole process of figuring out jobs and a career is so scary is because it is unknown.  He said that scary things are scary because we don’t know what to expect. This seems like a fairly obvious thing to say, but to me it was very profound. It was like he was giving me permission to be afraid of the unknown, but also reminding me that it won’t be scary forever.

The final piece of wisdom I received came at the end of last quarter as I was chatting with one of my professors. She told me that she didn’t find her passion until she was thirty, and that it’s okay not to have it all figured out. But then, she reminded me to enjoy the process of figuring it out. She said that reaching goals is often oddly unsettling and unsatisfying; it’s the process of getting there that is truly exciting. She reminded me that once you reach a goal, you are just going to set a new one. She said that goals are good and necessary, but we often forget to enjoy the process of achieving them.

Last quarter, I was discouraged and frustrated with school and with my future. I wanted to fast forward to having everything all figured out. But this quarter, my goal is to take the wisdom others have given me, and apply it to exactly where I am right now. I am going to focus on developing my skills and talents, continuing to figure out who I am and what I love, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I am going to try to be okay with not knowing what to expect in the future, and actually try to be excited about the possibilities rather than fear the uncertainty. And most of all, I am going to try to enjoy the ride. I can wish that I had everything all figured out, but the more I grow up, the more I realize that no one has it all figured out. So instead of wishing I knew what exactly my future holds, I’m going to try to enjoy the process of getting there.

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Annabelle Parr is a junior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She is a Psychology major with a passion for writing and learning about people. Connect with Annabelle via email at annabelle.parr@yahoo.com. Find her personal blog at https://slothisismylife.wordpress.com.