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Please don’t ask me what I’m doing next year. Albeit bratty, it’s an honest request. I can’t speak for all of my senior peers, but I can speak for myself: Don’t ask me what I’m doing next year. I appreciate your kindness, your interest, your sincerity, but please, just don’t ask.
I must admit: I am guilty of asking The Question to many of my peers. I understand the temptation. But as the year has progressed, and The Question has been posed to me, I have become increasingly flustered by it. Thus I have stopped asking it — no matter whom I am talking to because I realized there is just no good reason for such a conversation.
First of all, small talk topics are abundant. We’ve got weather. We’ve got food. We’ve got social events. We’ve got classes. We do not need to stoop to The Question as a way to pass the time. Here’s how The Question sounds as small talk:
“Why don’t you give me a 30-second sample plan of the effective result of your life thus far as it relates to social, educational, and work-related goals for your future?”
“Please discuss the most stressful and terrifying current aspect of your life as we pass each other in the restroom.”
Of course, you might be sincerely concerned for someone graduating. Is he going to make it in the world? Where will he find a place to stay? I’ve got news: If you’re concerned, think about how the person you’re asking feels.
Small talk and concern aside when people ask me what I’m doing next year, it is most probably out of genuine interest and curiosity. Like I said before, I understand the temptation. Seniors have been in college studying their majors, working hard, advancing in ideology, and harnessing opportunities. It is easy to see every student as living out a story for the past four years, especially at a small institution like Principia.
As with movies, books, and TV, we the viewers are unsatisfied with a “To Be Continued.” We want the end of the story. We want to encounter that person we have seen grow and progress in character and academics to ask “What are you doing next year?” and hear an ending that will tie that person’s story into a neat little Hollywood bow. Ideally, at least. But, let’s be real: in actuality, those glittering answers are not always possible.
Using myself as an example, I don’t know what I am doing next year. So, how should I answer the direct question of such plans? I can say that I don’t know, but clearly, that is not the entire truth, and it is rarely totally accepted by others. So, I don’t “know” but I have some ideas. Now what?
The interviewee of the post-grad question game is caught between three possibilities — none totally useful to me or my listener. I could give my ideal answer about where I will be for a year, what I will be doing, and what that will lead me to. But, honestly, I have no idea how attainable my loftier goals are until I attempt them for myself. Additionally, I have no idea if I’ll like that path even if I am able to walk it. But, I will have told everyone when I was graduating about my high dreams. I would be less than thrilled to have my interested peers see me fail or abandon my goals — even for good reason. Furthermore, people tend to be judgmental of high dreams. I don’t need extra concern about what I am already afraid of.
On the flip side, I can give people a low-end idea of what I might be doing in a year. However, my simple and easily attainable plans seem a little pathetic because they are by definition my starting point. Again, I don’t need judgment from others that I am not doing my best or I don’t believe in myself enough. So, I would rather not share my baseline goals with anyone but myself.
My last option is to explain what I just have, give a pro and con list of my high and low goals, map out various types of calendars, and explain the likelihood of me knowing what I’ll be doing and when. Besides needing my audience for a solid half hour, I will sound insane and will slowly make myself insane. So what is a girl to do when faced with The Question?
My proposal is that we scrap the basic question for less threatening and more useful conversations. I have come up with two excellent alternative questions for me and my fellow seniors.
“How do you feel about graduation?”
This is perfect because if the senior is anxious or sad, that is all that needs to be said. Clearly discussing options is not needed at this moment in time. However, if the student has just found out that he or she has a job, an acceptance to law school, or an internship, then he or she can happily share the information. Or, if the student is somewhere in between, he or she can offer her own opinions about the future — whatever they may be. I mean, really, who says we have to be defined by one or even a couple things we are doing at any given time in our futures? We should absolutely hope that our graduates have more to them than an occupation, location, and social idea. We are all much more than simple figures, so let us discuss ourselves like we are.
“What are you doing this summer?”
I suppose this could still be a bit stressful to some, but most people at the very least know where they are going the day after they leave Prin. It might be a job or opportunity or just the city they are moving their junk to for a short while. This offers a little insight and opportunity for the asker to share advice or help without getting too specific. Also, it opens the door for the graduate to speak more on post-grad if he or she is impelled to do so.
So, once again, thank you for supporting, loving, investing, and wondering — but stop asking!