“So, what are you going to do next?”
As my final semester of senior year approaches, this seems to be the million-dollar question. If only this were jeopardy, and the correct answer actually earned me a million dollars. What exactly is the right answer? To be or not to be, I must figure it out, eventually.
Admittedly, I often create my own version of the world and how it should be. OK, always. Which simultaneously leads to the “be realistic” commentary. Now in retrospect, this may not be so detrimental to my character. However, when determining future goals, this imagination of mine could hinder “real” plans.
Since I was a little girl, I have always acquired this overwhelming compassion for animals. From making sure all of my stuffed animals were facing upright so they could breathe, to moving worms on the sidewalk out of the sun, it was always an odd trait of mine.
As I grew older, there was no doubt in my mind that I had been called upon to pursue a career with animals. It was just a matter of how. Having an extreme dislike for needles, and too weak of a heart to put an animal down, cancelled out veterinarian. So what was left? I declared a major in criminology, I thought why not be an animal rights lawyer? I mean for starters, the title is pretty impressive and lawyers make good money right? It was settled. I should be a lawyer so that I can institute long-lasting world change for animals, just like Elle Woods – except brunette and with less pink.
In theory, this sounded perfect and soon became the ultimate plan upon graduation. It was when I actually began researching animal lawyers, and potential schools, that I was hit with reality. Seemingly enough, the field is not growing as fast as individuals’ interest in it. Furthermore, making a living as an animal attorney is near impossible, unless you practice other forms of law, not to mention the cost of law school.
Unsurprisingly, I began having thoughts such as: “Should the cost of education impact my decision?” “Do I even like studying law?” I remember being in my Introduction to Law class bored to tears. “Is being in an office for 12 to14 hours a day what I want to do for the rest of my life?” “Do I really want to take the LSAT, and the BAR exam?”
Although the idea of being an animal rights attorney was extremely appealing, I began to realize that it might have been glamorized in my head; wearing fancy business suits, and grabbing coffee with colleagues at lunch.
Then someone had asked me a question no one else had:
“What do you love to do?”
This allowed me to dig deep and dissect what I currently do that makes me happy. Although singing to my showerhead brings me joy, it didn’t seem like a feasible career, so I began thinking about both my campus and community involvement, which entails various forms of outreach and advocacy. I realized that I do this on a daily basis, and I don’t consider it work; I consider it necessary to pursue the dream I have always had: Make a change. Hmm, Maybe I’m onto something.
I share this experience because not knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life in your early 20s is not something to fret, or panic over. Students at this stage in life are constantly being pressured to have it all figured out. Not only does this lead to extreme anxiety and unhappiness, but a greater possibility of many career switches overtime due to making premature decisions. And your decision should not be based on impressive titles, or other people’s opinions.
All of this thinking would have definitely earned me the out of time "Jeopardy" buzzer, but the right answer might take some of us a little more time. And you know what? That is just fine.