Graduate: (n.) a person who has a first degree from a university or college.
Graduate: (v.) to move forward or improve.
Um, so, is that it?
The wait is over. You’re about to graduate and become a graduate. Let that sink in for a moment.
Oh, what’s that? Is that a frown on your face? The title seems to roll heavily on your tongue as you think of the daunting post-graduation process. The words seem to stand for, “Welcome to adult life. Find a job to produce rather than just consume. Do something other than being an irresponsible nuisance. Be someone, you nobody.” But what do you do upon graduation, after quitting the congratulations game? What is the rite of passage, the gateway to claiming financial independence, emotional maturity, and happiness?
Why does everyone think you should know? When will “the answer” dawn upon you, the one that solves the existential riddle of “what will you do after graduation?”
Beneath the smiley facade, your brain gets clouded when you’re asked that question. Once you hear the word ‘graduation’ after actually graduating, you start twitching, displaying signs of stress. The topic is no longer a casual exchange of niceties with strangers when you can nonchalantly reply by saying, “Oh, I’m thinking of going into banking.” No, now you’re seriously thinking of what to do next, and it scares you (and frankly, you are scaring yourself).
For Heaven’s Sake, Stop Asking!
After some time, you’ll be begging your friends not to utter the dreadful words, as they remind you of the unknown future that you haven’t planned for. It’s as though you’re approaching unchartered waters without a map or a compass (forget about Google Maps; it’s a metaphor). You can either wade in and explore your way, stomping through muddy waters, and walking over rough rocks or you can stay ashore, trying to draw a meticulous map of action. Which way do you follow? What are the risks of each? Oh, God…
What do I care, huh?
But, is being in the dark inherently bad? Not necessarily. If you’re afraid of ‘never’ knowing, don’t fret; not knowing what you want to do after graduation is a temporary state of self-ignorance that each fresh graduate passes through for variable durations. Even if you think you know exactly what you want to do, you can’t foresee what may change your mind or plans. Fresh graduates are in their first trial of accepting that it’s totally normal to semi-know what they are moving towards.
Maybe it isn’t so bad after all…
So, before getting worried, please know that your state of temporary ignorance is also your legitimate license to experiment. That is, consider yourself an experiment or a work-in-progress.
You know, it’s not shameful to admit that you don’t have a ready answer to the question. After all, if the experimentation phase serves to improve your relationship with yourself, then “I don’t know yet” is perfectly okay.
Note the “yet”. Take one of those online personality tests and determine how to overcome your weaknesses through an internship, a volunteering opportunity, or a job. Try to enumerate all of your interests and pick at least one to which you seriously dedicate your energy. Sit with yourself for 15 minutes and think of what you really want to do. Write it down. Whisper it to a friend or a family member who is a good listener yet isn’t judgmental.
Aha! Found it!
Write to an older person (e.g. a professor, teaching assistant, high school teacher…) who is frank and patient enough to point out any logical holes that you could fall into if you follow your grand plans. Record your conversation, be it a monologue or a dialogue with someone else.
The point is to shake off this paralyzing stigma around post-graduation uncertainty, to embrace the idea of taking some time at your own pace, and to try out abstract plans. You see, the answer may be in your reach, but your fear of the marshland is holding you back. Stop worrying about what anyone may think of your graduation process, for life after graduation is yours.
What’s your strategy for answering (or avoiding) the question? Share your story of how you found out what you wanted to do after graduation.