As a senior, the one question that people most often ask me is also the one question that I most dread answering: “What are you planning to do after college?” My usual reaction is to rattle off a vague answer that has something to do with museum work. While I am interested in pursuing a career in public history or museum studies, the more honest answer is that I have no idea what exactly I’m doing after graduation.
It wasn’t until this fall that I really started stressing about my future plans, or more accurately, my lack of any. The most obvious culprit behind this stress, is what I like to call, “The Senior Year To-do List.” This exhaustive list includes things like attending career fairs, networking, refining your resume, writing cover letters, searching for internships, interviewing, applying for jobs, etc, etc, etc. Basically, it encompasses all of the steps you should take to ensure a successful post-grad life. Unfortunately, I’m the queen of procrastination. Every time I attempted to start my job search, I became completely overwhelmed. The process left me feeling discouraged and unqualified. Moreover, looking around at all of the progress my peers were making only compounded the worry that I hadn’t done enough. Did I have enough experience? Should I have applied to that internship? Should I have spent my time at W&M differently? I started doubting myself and second guessing my choices.
Only recently have I come to realize just how unhealthy it is to play this comparison game. My college experience is my own; it won’t be like anyone else’s. There isn’t any one “right” path. It’s great to have a detailed college timeline, to map out how you’re going to get from point A to point B with a defined end goal after graduation. It’s also okay to be unsure of your path, to embark on your second semester of senior year without quite knowing your next step. What’s most important is that you don’t get so caught up in the end game that you can’t appreciate the present, or worse, you start to discount your own experiences and accomplishments when compared to others.
As we go into the new year, I feel like I can look forward with less apprehension. I fully intend to finish some job applications before winter break ends, and I’m also bracing myself for a stop at the career center once I’m back on campus. Now though, I’m a little less stressed about the process. Instead of being worried about inevitable uncertainties, I am excited about future possibilities.
I want to enjoy the time I have left at William & Mary without feeling like I’m just caught up in a race to the finish line. So yeah, maybe I don’t know what exactly comes next, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the process, part of the adventure.