Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Post-College Abyss

I’ve been plagued by worries about what lies ahead ever since I’ve graduated. I’m not going to be cliché and say that I don’t know what I want to do with my life, because that’s not true—rather, what’s thrown me off most is the loss of structure now that for the first time in seventeen years I don’t have formal education to plan my life around. For a long time I’ve wanted to face the future and explore what the world has to offer, even though this is disorienting and scary. I don’t want to do something completely off the deep end like some people I know have done, but the idea of having adventures and trying new things resonates strongly with my situation at the moment.

However, what also bothers me is the fear that things might not work out now that I’m out of college; though it may appear that way on the surface. I can’t explain exactly what I mean by this; but everywhere I go I feel like I’m surrounded by important-sounding jobs that don’t sound like they’d be very stimulating to work at, even though they provide the security and benefits post-graduates need—or so I’ve been told. But would I really be happy working a job like that just for the security? I don’t think so. I believe that no matter what you’re doing, you should be living your life in a dynamic way. It’s hard to explain this to people, especially when friends ask me if I’ve “thought about what I want to do,” as if this meant making a concrete decision about how I’ll spend the next fifty years working to achieve various financial goals . I love to write, but fitting this in with earning a living, leading the life I want to, and freeing myself from the shackles of debt is something I’m still working to figure out.

I think most people avoid the kind of search that I and others I know are on because it’s just easier to pick a career and stick with it as a way of obtaining security. That way, you can define yourself through your job and impress people regardless of how insignificant that job may be . But what you do doesn’t have to define who you are ; often, a job is just a way of supporting yourself, accessing certain resources, or just a way of trying something new . My friends from Bennington, for instance, are working a wide range of different jobs that don’t necessarily say anything about them as people, and that’s all right.

Randall once told me that I believed in mind over matter, and that all I had to do was put the right perspective on something to improve my situation. I think I’m finally on my way to embracing that mindset with this new problem, once I’ve dispelled the notion that people see me as a failure. I don’t know why I let the stupidest shit get to me—I just finished a job where I got to do a lot of fun things and I’m involved with other projects that make me feel rewarded while providing adequate compensation. People I know are have done tremendously creative, interesting things, and these types of endeavors are something I can’t lose sight of.

A lot of writers have had a variety of experiences and haven’t just focused on one career, which has shown me that there’s no one way to lead your life. Some writers moved out to the middle of the woods to work on a first novel, others worked in business for years before discovering their first great idea, some played professional backgammon, and still others spent time developing successful careers as lawyers, art critics, or even composers; obtaining knowledge and experience that found its way into their fiction. There’s a world filled with possibilities for people willing to look for them—and there’s no reason to be afraid.

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