I’ve never felt so adrift in my entire life. It’s both the most terrifying and exciting experience. Some days I definitely wake up feeling nervous about my future. When you have no plans beyond graduation I think it’s easy to feel lost, but in many ways, it’s liberating. What am I going to do after I graduate? What do I want to do? The honest answer to those questions is simple: I have no fucking clue.
Plans, plans, plans, and more plans.
My entire life has been a plan and I’ve always enjoyed that. To me, it seemed the natural and most practical way to live, so why change? I think I might be one of the most naturally organized individuals you could ever meet. But now that I really think about it, my need for organization has been a sort of defense mechanism – if I was always one, two or even ten steps ahead, nothing could go wrong! I couldn’t be surprised. I didn’t want to be. And I was always worried. Always, always, worried. While my friends were living in the moment, doing all of these crazy fun things, I was writing lists and making plans. It’s taken me a long time to be spontaneous, to even feel able to be.
Leaving is hard.
The past few months have been an emotional rollercoaster. It’s one thing to choose not to have a plan, and a whole other ball game having no say in the matter. I’ve been scared, upset, blasé, overwhelmed, thrilled, relieved, exhausted – the list could go on and on. And I’m not alone. All students about to graduate share these feelings, days where you can’t wait to be shot of your university and nights where you tear up just thinking about the future, about leaving. It’s normal. I’ve spent the last few years in St Andrews thinking of it as my home, the first place I’ve been able to call my home. It’s been a special four years and no matter the difficulties, it’ll be really hard to leave.
When I think about the future, the near future, there’s a blank slate. There are a million things I dream of and a million things I know that I’ll one day get to do, but right now? In my mind, it seems as if there’s a dark pit of unknown that stretches between where I am at the moment, and where I could be. I can’t find the ladder over it. Here, I feel safe, yet very aware of how long I have left in my secure bubble. That’s the scariest part for me. If I was to pinpoint what worried me most about graduating with no plans, I would say that it’s not having that safety net anymore. That there will be no ‘next year’.
Pressure. These last few months that seems to be the word I’ve used most often. When I talk to friends about their plans or lack of plans, they regularly talk about the pressure they’re under. What I want to know is, how bad is it, really, to not know which direction you’re going in?! I feel as though there’s more pressure than ever before to come out of university having everything sussed out. This is unrealistic and harmful.
After having extensive talks about my future with my parents, I do understand that all our families really want is for us to be okay. To be financially secure, independent and proactive. But these past four years have been hard; they’ve been amazing, but I’m also so very drained. And I’m not sure I would feel as worried about having no career plans after I graduate if I wasn’t expected to have a job all lined up. It’s an expectation that I’m guilty of having myself too. I suppose I’ve never really shaken off the planner in me, and it’s disarming to have no path to follow. I understand the parental worry. Right now though, all I really want is a break. I think it’s what we all need.
Let’s choose not to settle.
Between now and graduation, our only job should be to pursue our passions and care a little less about what others think of us – this includes our own inner critic. Be spontaneous. Explore new things. Travel. Make memories. We’re all in our twenties for fuck’s sake! Imagine thinking back in ten years time on all the things that you didn’t do because you were scared, or because you were too influenced by the wishes of others. I might have no career plans now, but I’m going to give ’em hell when I do – and for the time being? I’m going to focus on me. Taking some time to explore what really makes me happy feels like the only way to make sure I end up in the same pleasant situation long term.
So if you’re like me, and you have no career plans whatsoever for after you graduate, don’t panic. Take Dory’s advice and ‘just keep swimming’. There’s so much to do and see out there before we settle into a fixed career, and as long as you’re building eco-friendly sky scrappers in your mind, whether that be through travel, art, starting up your own business or simply exploring different part-time jobs, it’ll be worth the time taken to do it. Ask for support in your post-uni endeavors and expect it, even if that means taking a few risks.