Exploration can be the key to a great future

While it is early in the semester and I would hate to scare any impressionable freshmen or graduating seniors, my post-graduation life begs a question that must be asked: Now what?

This is not a new concept. Even in booming times, college graduates often wonder why they just spent four or more years of their lives in class for a piece of paper and a nine-to-five job. Once we take off the cap and gown and start showing up for work, it’s difficult to reconcile the years of study with the new routine. Getting a job is supposedly what we’re here to do, but it’s not very fulfilling.

I’m not saying that my job is boring (well, maybe a little), or that I have no direction in my life. On the contrary, I know exactly where I want to be, and am just now coming to the realization that this is not it.

And it seems this is a problem that many disenchanted college grads face. As any number of adolescent angst movies and bushels of twenty-something TV shows air, the twenties are supposed to be a glorious age of finding your path in life, and what it is you’re really meant to do. Unfortunately, this path does not come equipped with housing. Finding your calling in life is great but it doesn’t pay the bills.

TV and Hollywood don’t make this an easy time either. We are constantly led to believe that if we aren’t finding a cure for cancer, writing the next great American novel or running a high-powered billion-dollar company, we have somehow failed.

Gone are the days of people waiting patiently for a six-figure job. Impatience seems to be the most common virtue of Generations X, Y and Z. And, adding insult to injury, the really lucky ones don’t have to wait for high-paying, high-powered jobs. Chelsea Clinton has just inked a contract for six-figure deal with a consulting firm in New York City following her graduation from Oxford this spring. Shouldn’t even the privileged, rich kids have to schlep home after graduation and bunk in their old room that their parents have started to turn into an exercise room?

So what’s the moral? Are we destined to wallow in our own self-doubt until we eventually either squelch it or accept it?

I can’t speak for everybody, but maybe the answer is to keep breathing. As much as I hate clichés, it seems the only way not to go insane is to remember that 23, 25 or even 30 is not old. We have years to get to where we “want” to be. Now is the time to savor the fact that we simply are “here.”

It’s not easy, and I would challenge anybody who says it is. The world has changed since our parents went to college, got jobs at one company and stayed there for the rest of their lives. We’re going to hop around, try out different careers, get multiple degrees and even go through periods of having no idea what we should do next or where we should go.

I remember seeing shirts a few years ago that said, “Life is not a destination, it’s a journey.” It seems that no time in our lives defines that saying more than our twenties. And while the journey is often scary, and unbelievably overwhelming, it is often the best part of the trip.

Megan Sullivan is a USF alumna and Opinion Editor at The Oracle.