For anyone who's sick of hearing, "What's next?"
"Life as you know it just ended. So... What are you going to do next?"
As a new graduate, you're probably hearing this question a lot. Like a lot a lot. Like over and over and over again at every function you go to whether you're the focus of said event or not. When you run into coworkers you haven't been on the clock with since "the big day," this is usually the first question you get hit with. My personal favorite iteration of this moment came last week while making small talk with my realtor... Is that too personal? Whatever, my point is I get this question a lot and you probably do too.
Let me start by saying that I understand and respect the fact that everyone asking questions like this mean well. "What's next?" keeps the conversation going and is a good go-to to keep the ball in the air. However, that may have just unintentionally triggered a chain reaction in the second party involved in this conversation. Most likely, they've got their answer memorized and they're going to rattle it off as quickly as possible because talking about the future is terrifying, even if you're lucky enough to have a plan.
Anyone who's just graduated from anything, be it college, high school, an improv class, what have you, has just gone through a major life change. Processing that is quite hard, and now you're being asked to go over your plan, or lack thereof, in a very public way. I don't know about you, but this alone is enough to give me the beginnings of an anxiety episode. Having to explain that I don't have a full-time job nailed down just yet (and the inevitable downward spiral that comes with that comes from that train of thought) doesn't feel awesome. I could be talking to a family member, a friend, or a stranger, and regardless, I will feel like I'm being judged or worry about disappointing the other person because of my answer.
Graduation is a stormy sea of mixed emotions. Endless possibilities await you when you walk off that platform, diploma in hand. However, all of those possibilities can be intimidating and overwhelming when you have hundreds of paths to go down with no map. And the whole plight is just plain frustrating when you know what road you're looking for, but you don't know how to get across town... and then someone comes along to ask you for directions. Okay, maybe these travel metaphors are taking us around in circles, but hopefully you get my point.
This feeling is super isolating. You feel like there's no one you can talk to because you're so lost that it seems like there's no way anyone could possibly understand the hell that you're trapped in. Over the weeks since I've graduated, I've felt pretty disconnected from things. I'm constantly worried about money, making student loan payments, and paying my rent. Couple that with wanting a career that fulfills me creatively and selling my childhood home, and you've got a recipe for a quarter-life crisis.
I guess I just want any fellow grads suffering from this affliction to know that they're not alone. It's natural for change to absolutely freak you out. And even if you have a plan and you still experience this, that's normal too! A huge thing just happened to you. You finished one major chapter in your life and you haven't quite gotten around to writing the next one. That's okay. Graduation isn't the end-all-be-all, and whatever you're "doing next" doesn't define your worth as a person. This is a method of thinking that I'm still trying to master, and I know it's not going to happen overnight. However, I know that anything worth doing is hard work. Hard work that I know people of my generation are absolutely capable of. So the next time someone asks you what's next, all you have to say is, "Just you wait and see."