Stop asking what I’m doing after I graduate

By Katy Mae Turner | Photographer

It’s July 2022, and in a couple days, I’ll be making the nine-hour drive back to Waco to start my final year of college. My grandparents come visit before I disappear for another four months, and they try to make small talk, but the dreaded question comes up.

“So what are you doing after you graduate?”

I have been asked this question before, but the closer I get to the finish line, the more the connotation changes. Before, it was so distant. Now, it feels like I’m being asked what I’m doing next weekend — as if the answer should be obvious.

After an awkward laugh and pause, I reply, “I have no idea.” And it’s true.

Some people know exactly what they want to do; they have a Pinterest vision board from 2015 tucked away, waiting to come to life. If that’s you, congratulations! You’re one of the lucky few. For the rest of us, we have a lot of big decisions to make.

I’m 20 years old. The government doesn’t allow someone my age to buy a bottle of wine from Target, but for some reason, I’m supposed to have the rest of my life wrapped up neatly in a 30-second elevator pitch.

The job you take or the city you live in after graduation isn’t permanent. You’re allowed to change your mind. It will take a little bit more effort to seek out new opportunities, but even the experiences you don’t find the most joy in will teach you something.

A lack of permanence is both terrifying and exciting. As you take these steps into the “real world,” there are endless opportunities available. Try as many things as you can. Your 20s are an era of exploration that you will never get back.

For some, graduation is a sigh of relief. For others, the idea of waiting for months to hear about a decision that will impact the rest of your life is excruciating. Others feel both — along with 346,742 other emotions all at once.

Saying you don’t know what you want to do after graduation doesn’t mean you’re unprepared. Many graduate schools don’t close applications until January, with decisions later in the spring, and only certain employers are hiring June employees in October.

There’s only so much we can do to vouch for ourselves and our skills, because at the end of the day, so much power rests in the hands of the school or employer to decide if they want us.

On the other hand, being unprepared is a completely valid option. Many of us have been going and going for years without a chance to slow down. Taking time to explore yourself and what you enjoy with your newfound identity apart from academia is a fundamental part of growing up.

As many of us prepare to leave the Baylor bubble, we have to recognize that college changes us as people. I don’t know where I’m going to end up in nine months or nine years, but I can trust that whichever path I go down is where I’m meant to be. They will twist and turn or merge with other experiences, but it’s important to have an open mind going into the real world.

So no, I don’t know what I’m doing after I graduate. But as May 12 and 13 approach, I’m not worried. There are no rules on how to navigate life. Find the path that works best for you and embrace it.