When you graduate high school everyone says “It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, no one does at 18.”
And then when you’re 20 and you have a breakdown because you thought you had finally figured it out, but the thought of doing that forever is suddenly daunting and not at all exciting, they tell you “It’s okay. Everyone changes majors and life plans in college.”
But when you finally graduate everyone asks “So what next?” Those same people who told you that you didn’t have to know, suddenly expect that you’ve got a long-term plan. And maybe you do. Maybe the next step is grad school, or that internship you’ve had lined up for months. But then again, maybe you don’t. Because going back to school sounds awful, and you have bills to pay so an unpaid internship is out.
And yet you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, you just know you aren’t whatever “it” is yet.
Do what you love.
Easier said that done. What do I love? Many things. I love horses, I love books, and I love photography. I love combining the three. I love discussing the three. But what do I do with that?
When I was 16 I was super into photography and graphic design. I was going to go to Savannah College of Art and Design and earn my degree in the two. I learned that I had to drawing classes which was a minor setback since I can’t even draw stick figures, but it was something I could work with. It was around this time that Joseph and I officially started dating. Flash forward a year and suddenly I realized what it would mean to go so far from home and leave everyone behind, Joseph included. Suddenly Georgia seemed worlds away. And while I enjoyed graphic design, I didn’t have the raw talent that I saw in other artists.
I tried going the horse direction. My last year as a junior, I did the working student/ Junior-pro thing. Over the summer, I worked my butt off at a show barn putting in way more than 40 hours a week. Six days a week, and sometimes seven, I showed up at the barn at 9 and left between 5 and 8 depending on how many horses I had to ride, whether anybody had been out to try horses, and whether or not I had any lessons to teach that day. Once school started I went every single day straight to the barn from school. But I found that when horses were my job–even though I loved them still–I wasn’t as excited to see them every day as I had been. I didn’t regret missing out on much of my senior year, but I did feel burnt out by the end of my senior year. This was the discovery that while I am capable of going the pro direction when I put in the work, I do not want it badly enough, and I cannot enjoy it as much when horses are my career.
I went through a programming phase, but found that wasn’t for me either. Again, I was fairly average, but didn’t enjoy it enough to go anywhere with it. I finally decided I wanted to major in English. Teaching English at the high school level was always an option, but I didn’t know if I wanted to do it for the next 45 years. Looking back, I made the right choice. I finally found something I excelled in, and wanted to put the work into. I thoroughly enjoyed reading books and discussing them–even the ones I didn’t particularly like. I loved helping other classmates with their papers, and even though the process to write and edit my own was sometimes laborious and frustrating, I have always loved the feeling I have when a paper is complete and I am genuinely proud that it is my work.
And now here I am, five months after graduation. I am still unsure. I know that what I do now is not what I want to be doing in the – or even the -; there is nothing wrong with my job or the company I work for, only that I have no passion for it, and the only fulfillment it provides is money for rent and horses. I have decided to pursue a teaching certificate, and perhaps I will find that teaching is my true calling. I have always enjoyed children, and I do love to teach. But what if I find that this too, leaves me feeling as if there is more for me elsewhere?
I have discovered that the problem with my degree (English, minor in Rhetoric/Writing) is not that it is limiting, or that people will not want to hire me, but that it is not limiting enough. Teaching is an obvious choice, as is a job in sales (which I currently have). But perhaps I want to work in marketing. Or maybe I want to work in publishing.
There is a world of possibilities, and I am so limited in my experiences that I have no idea in which direction to head, for fear that once I have chosen a path, the others will be lost for good.
It sure would be nice if I could pause life for just a little while to run away to Virginia, where I can snuggle my babies and forget the world. Since that isn’t an option, is there a job that pays for you to take pretty pictures and read awesome books all day–and pays for rent and horses?