It is okay to not know your future path and career

Summer Le, Campus Carrier digital media editor

            Having an “ideal or dream job” has been instilled in me ever since I was in kindergarten. We had career days where different parents would come in to speak to the class about their daily life as a firefighter or a banker. Many of the classroom activities also consistently nudged students to start thinking about what they hope to be when they grow up. I remember one of my classmates saying they wanted to just be a good person and hand out flowers to people. Unfortunately, their paper was returned, and they had to do the assignment again because they did not answer with an established career title. At the time, I tried to explain to my classmate that they had answered too quickly without thinking the question through. Now I look back and wonder if it was me that did not dwell on the question enough. There is a heavy emphasis on what we are to BE rather than what we hope to DO in our lives.

As a graduating senior, I can confidently say that “Are you excited to graduate?” has replaced “Hello, how are you?” when people greet me. I will often respond with honest feelings of frenzy. The next burning question that follows usually pertains to job or internship opportunities that might be lined up for me once I leave the Berry bubble. I often hesitate to answer because while yes, I have put myself out there for opportunities, it is as if people expect my life purpose to be my career once I graduate college. What if my next steps aren’t necessarily tied to my undergraduate studies? What if my next steps include investing time in my childhood hobbies or going abroad to reconnect with the roots of my ancestry? 

            There are many people with testimonies about how they pursued a career that they were certain about for as long as they can remember. I applaud those people and would never discredit their passions. Without taking away from their accolades or pursuits, I’d like to provide some comfort to those who might not be able to relate to that and feel inferior for not knowing or having a dream job. My career aspirations have changed more times than I can count over the course of my life. Change is inevitable and it comes naturally with time. What you might need at one point in your life might not necessarily be what you need a decade later. The decision to change career ambitions should not automatically be equated to laziness or inconsistency. It is something that happens with growth. Because as an individual, growth can occur in awareness, relationships and skills. There might not be one specific job that survives the evolution of who you become and that is okay. Old dreams might dim over time and new dreams might present themselves. It is important to give yourself grace when the time comes for a dream to change in any sort of direction.

            Even though fulfillment can come from a job, it does not necessarily have to be what fulfills you or your life entirely. Because of the ways of the world and the reality of income in our lives, there is no denying that we need to find a way to support our physical needs. Some people are lucky to have their job be both what they love doing, and what helps keep them alive. There is no shame in having a job simply for the sole purpose of supporting a lifestyle. Finding a job that simply allows you to further pursue your passions or hobbies on the side can be just as rewarding or fulfilling. The things we love indulging ourselves in, whether it be writing stories or fixing cars, are things that do not have to be commodified to be meaningful. Doing things simply because it brings us joy or makes us happy will open doors for us to perhaps detach our worth from productivity. 

In meeting a new person or stepping into a new setting, formal introductions might include stating a name, age and job title. It is important to remember that we as people get to present and share as much of ourselves as we choose. Our purpose and identity do not have to be rooted in our job titles or how well we perform in the workspace. Your career does not have to be the most prominent thing about you. Being a friend or family member can be equally important or even more important should you deem them to be. You are valued and important, not because of what you can be for the world, but simply because you exist.

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