My answer to this question changed many times over the years, and every time I was so certain. “I want to be a veterinarian” nine year old me would proclaim. Fifteen year old me was convinced I would be an author. Many half finished stories could be found on my desktop computer in high school.
Eighteen year old decided it would be more fun to become a journalist. Shorter stories and all that. I was going to write for a music magazine. I’d get to interview all the famous artists and get VIP tickets to shows so I could write concert reviews. So I applied to get a journalism degree. And promptly dropped out after first year. I was terrible at journalism. I liked adjectives too much and honestly didn’t pay very much attention to what was going on in the world.
Not really knowing what else to do, I changed my major to psychology. It was interesting and really easy. This was great, I decided, now I can graduate and be a therapist. Get paid tons of money to listen to rich people’s problems. I could do that for a living. Until I realized that would take an additional five years of school. I could see my life disappearing, another half decade of unbearable stress writing papers standing between me and my “grownup life.” Every time I changed my mind, I imagined a whole new future for myself, and expectation of how my life would turn out. But I had trouble imaging how I was going to get there, the in-between.
So I graduated with my BA and I didn’t apply for grad school. Now I’m in that in-between. And I still can’t figure out how it’s supposed to go. Of course I haven’t found a job. I’m not qualified for anything. So now here I am, a recent grad working retail, the ultimate stereotype, with no experience and no idea what I want to be “when I grow up.” I finally realized that there’s no finish line to cross into “grownup territory.” Life goes on, day by day, and it’s always changing. You CAN’T plan the in-between. There are always new challenges, new decisions and new experiences. I am more uncertain about the future than I’ve ever been in my life. But I’m also less worried. I take my challenges day by day instead of constantly worrying about the big picture. I’ve learned well enough that plans change. Things happen. Opportunities arise that you could never plan for, and your whole life trajectory can change in a day.
Instead I make smaller goals, plans for tomorrow. or maybe next weekend. Of course it’s important to plan ahead, but I try never to look further than a year in advance. A hell of a lot can change in a year.