Stop Asking Me What I'm Doing After College

This post was contributed by Richard Carey

“So what are you going to do?”

I am consistently asked this questions by peers, more consistently with those older than me, even more consistently by my family. The in-between-time of semesters, from spring to fall, “the summer months,” can be daunting and congested with this question.

I know I’m not the only person poked with this type of inquiry. Strangers, co-workers, and long-distant family members want to know what I’m studying, and then what I plan to do with those studies. A genuine interest. But for me, for someone who has no idea, it can be overwhelming; a helpful reminder, albeit unsolicited, that I have no clue what the hell I am doing with my life.

When crossed with this situation, I resort to a simple deflection of “I don’t even know what I’m doing next week!” supplying just enough time for me to laugh, take a sip of whatever is nearby, and quickly search in my summer-lazed brain for a better answer.

In my life, dreams have been heavied with “don’t get too obsessed,” “you’re a dreamer,” and the candid “get your head out of the clouds.”

Put simply, I like having dreams for the future. And I have a lot of them. It’s tough though. I was raised in a family where hard work is appreciated and looked fondly on. Laziness was a sin and typing away thoughts was really only an option for fifteen minutes at a time. Writing, or anything creative past a vague acceptance for website design, was simply a hobby.

To go back, I’ve reflected enough on these circumstances to realize that I don’t have NO idea of what I want to do, but simply too MANY ideas of what to do. I love too many things, impassioned by too many people, and burdened with so many aspirations and dreams. Which brings me to this notion:

Should dreams be a burden?

Some would say yes, that the burden is actually your mind and body wanting it so bad that it could not imagine a future without it, crumbling at the thought of doing something entirely different and not at all similar. But some would say no, that dreams should be a light at the end of the tunnel. An ethereal thought transcended above all else for you to grasp at. I’m not too sure which interpretation I like more. The former, as a burden, dreams seem to be more tangible, at the end of a race track interrupted by obstacles, but achievable nonetheless. The latter seems more like sunlight; you can see it, feel it, and love it, but will never be able to catch it and bottle it up. In this instance, I think the former takes the cake.

I’ve accepted the idea that I will have to dip my toes in many pools to find the perfect water temperature to swim. Very Pippy Longstocking-esque, I know. And until I find that perfect pool, I’m just going to wear my swimmies, grab some goggles, and dive in head first into all of my dreams.

With being in my twenties, almost for a full year now (and although it’s not a long time, it’s long enough), I am continually flooded by drive and inspiration to just do what I want! Nobody should feel tethered to a white picket fence, only released on the weekdays from nine o’clock in the morning to five o’clock at night. That picket fence seems great, but it comes with a mortgage (something else I’m trying to avoid).

It sounds so Shakespearian, doesn’t it? Probably a tragedy. A long-heated monologue about the inner battles and workings of a protagonist. A monologue festering with the idea of head and heart. Or, in Shakespearian, a “long-waded conundrum of intelligence and love.” I really don’t know how Shakespeare would put it.

My mind is in constant disarray about the future, almost as much as this piece of writing. Life is messy and confusing, evidently, and I have a lot of passion for a lot of different things. Which is okay, right? And I’m still young! However, the constant push to make a decision, to decide a path and trek through it, makes me want to push myself off a cliff!

Paraphrasing J.K. Rowling, creativity and imagination gives humans the capacity to imagine what we have not experienced. Maybe, I’m unpacking this too much.

The point is, dreams are good. What you do with those dreams matters more. If you leave them like dead fish on your kitchen counter, baking in the hot sun of disapproval, they will start to stink and lose their appeal. But if you prepare and cook them, eat them and serve them (still talking about dreams), then the world will know you’re talent, and YOU will fully realize that your dreams are not simply dreams, but what you were destined to do.


Meet Richard: My name is Richard Carey and I am a senior at James Madison University studying Communications, Political Science, and Film Studies! When I’m not in class, I’m usually bingeing Netflix and YouTube or writing. Keep up with me on IG.

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