I’m 22 years old, a senior in college, on the verge of being let loose in the “real” world
to become a “real” person, and I’m not certain I want that freedom…When do
I definitely start being an adult? The structure that the education system provided me is gone
and I’m not sure what is supposed to happen and when for the rest of my life.
On the one hand, I really can’t wait until I’m financially independent and debt
free, but on the other, I’m not 6 years old anymore and owning my own house doesn’t
come with a definite time frame. I can’t count down the days like I did when I got my
driver’s license or when I graduated from high school. Even with a payment plan for my
loans I know there will be setbacks and complications that will alter the course of my indebtedness.
It’s not inconceivable that it could take me 20 years to pay off all the money! Twenty
years?! That is essentially doubling my lifetime and a time frame that I find hard to grasp.
For some reason I can reasonably comprehend the millions of years it took mammals to evolve,
but being 40 years old is a concept much more overwhelming.
So what do I have to look forward to now? How am I supposed to measure time and achievement?
I’ve always met the required goals and benchmarks, but from here on out, there is no
universal reference point for time and no grand authority to let me know if I’m doing
alright. My problem with this is that for my whole life I’ve been waiting for someone
to give me that certificate stating to the world that I’m a real person capable of making
important, life-altering decisions, specifically of the risky or ballsy nature. I’ve
been waiting for the opportunity to do what I truly think I want to do without penalty of guilt
or shame. You know, that event that happens and signifies that I am a passionate, intentional,
reasonable person to be reckoned with; the time when life stops being a process and starts
fulfilling the Big Plan.
But in reality, there is no one opportunity or event, there is no Big Plan, there are no decisions
that are not potentially life-altering. There is no universal point of reference, and no grand
authority that will give me a gold star when I make a good choice. Plus, when you really break
it down, every success and failure is relative. Who’s to say that 1,000 little successes
over a lifetime don’t equal one big one? An achievement for one person will not mean
the same thing to another. At the end of the day, I don’t want to let Smith College or
my parents or my friends have the final word on whether or not I can be happy with myself and
get a good night’s sleep (which is probably number one on the list of things I value
highly). Everyone is always going to have an opinion about what I could and should be doing
with my life whether I want to hear it or not, and I know myself well enough to know that these
weighty suggestions affect me a lot and tend to throw things out of perspective. Do I really
agree with my coworker’s father who thinks I should go into business because it is the
new hot field for psychology majors? No, yet I still spend several days and way too much energy
ruling out this possibility. Some may call it being thorough, but I can’t help but worry
that this behavior is an indicator that a good deal of aimless wandering through careers is
ahead of me.
What I have to come to terms with is the fact that while I don’t exactly know what I
want to be, I definitely know some things that I don’t want to be and those can be pretty
powerful in forging a path. I have some vague ideas about what it is I’m ultimately striving
to do, and I think I just have to have faith that my experiences in the following years will
illuminate some interesting opportunities as I go.