The Real World Is Coming . . . and I Don't Feel Ready

Pexels / Oziel Gómez

I recently saw the new Little Women movie with my mom, and in one of the scenes, Jo March (played by Saoirse Ronan), says to her older sister, “I can’t believe childhood is over.” I had been feeling some sort of nostalgia lately and couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was until I heard her say this line. Jo said exactly what I was feeling. My childhood is over.

By this time next year, I’ll (hopefully) have a full-time job at a company I enjoy, be meeting new friends and mentors, and maybe even be out of my parents’ house and in my own apartment. Obviously, these are all still daydreams, because who the hell knows exactly where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing, but I do know one thing: adulthood is coming, and I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

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There are so many career paths to choose from; how do I know if this is the right one? Will it make me happy forever? What if I change my mind?

I’m currently halfway through my senior year of college, and the questions about my plans once I graduate are starting to come from all directions at rapid speed. When I started my senior year, I thought I had a vague idea of what I wanted: to work within the world of publishing/editing. But as the months rolled on and the looming reality of the real world crept closer, I began to have doubts. There are so many career paths to choose from; how do I know if this is the right one? Will it make me happy forever? What if I change my mind?

I continued to dig myself into a hole this way, making myself more nervous and confused about what I wanted, so I decided to talk to one of my professors, and his advice was exactly what I needed to hear. “You’re putting too much pressure on your first job,” he said. “Just focus on finding something that’s going to pay the bills, but also cover some food and a bottle of wine at the end of the night when you pass time with friends. It doesn’t have to be perfect.” It was such a simple statement that genuinely never occurred to me until he said it. I had been thinking of my future as one 40-year chapter. Instead, I needed to take a breather and realize my next step is just that – one step.

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I’m not kidding when I say that most of my friends are majoring within the science field and know exactly what their futures look like. (Seriously, when we graduated high school, my mom wrote on our cards, “The doctor, the nurse, the engineer, and the writer.”) I couldn’t be more different, and I think this plays into my fear of adulthood because their chosen professions pave a pretty clear path for each of them, while I have no clue what’s coming. And as scary as that is, I have to be OK with that. My first job does not have to be my dream job, it just has to start me out and get me by. And just because I’ve had things taken care of for me up until this point doesn’t mean what’s beyond it is bad. I get to make my life my own now, and while I’m still scared for the inevitable bumps along the way, I know that’s all part of the ride.

For right now, I’ll still be nostalgic for my childhood and stay just inside the lines of adulthood while I still can. And as graduation gets closer, I’ll try to remind myself not to put so much pressure on what lies ahead. Am I ready for the future? No. But who is ever ready for something like that? I know what my passions are and I know how hard I’m willing to work for them, so somewhere along the way I know I will find my place. We all will.

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