I once read in a biography about former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that she originally had planned to become a professional pianist. Upon attending the Aspen Music Festival her sophomore year in college, she realized her passion for playing piano may not be enough to turn into career and it brought both confusion and devastation to her. She later changed her major after a class on international politics and the Soviet Union taught by Josef Korbel, and that became the path that would lead her to becoming National Security Advisor and then eventually Secretary of State.
Rice often revisits this story in several of her interviews to offer advice about life planning. She even said herself, “you can’t plan every step in life”.
This brings me to a conversation with my former undergraduate advisor about my plans for after my “gap year” was up.
Of course, neither one of us were surprised to find that my plans, like the weather, have changed drastically. It’s bad enough I used to bug her every day in her office to talk about everything and anything under the sun. It’s also bad enough even when I was a student, my plans would change too. But back then, I thought ‘well, I still have a little more time.’ Well, it’s been a year and I’ve been bugging her again.
I’m surprised she hasn’t gotten tired of me or blocked me or something.
But the conversations we both have and had seem to circle the same topic - writing careers, higher ed careers, etc. With her wealth of knowledge in both, she admits that not even she can predict how the job market will look in five, ten, or even fifteen years.
Still, I told her I felt like a failure because it had been a year and one of the only things I came up with was I didn’t want to go to graduate school until next fall. She reminded me and assured me that I’m young and have the rest of my life to find the answers to all these questions.
If I were to look at what I’ve done since I graduated last May, the list would go like this- studied abroad, did some freelance writing, worked with AmeriCorps, etc. at the time, AmeriCorps had been something I had been planning for a while because I knew immediately that I would take a year off after graduation. Of course, I also was under the impression that I would have a grad school chosen, application sent, acceptance letter received, and on my way…
I also had this assumption that I would end up like Lena Dunham on the television show Girls, going to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and become a serious writer. So, I went back to my advisor and showed my interest in it once more, only to return two weeks later showing even more confusion and uncertainty.
Maybe I should give myself more credit as it only has been a year and in that year, I have discovered and rediscovered a lot. But my fear is that I will wake up and realize that I wasted a good amount of time or I wake up and I still haven’t accomplished my dreams.
So, after talking with my former undergraduate advisor, I realized that it’s okay to be clueless and it’s okay to be curious. Not everyone knows all that they are going to do at every stage in their life.
And that’s okay.