When shaking the chancellor’s hand at my M.A. graduation ceremony this week, he asked with big hopeful eyes, “So what will you be doing now?”. And so I’ve been trying to answer that question.
As of late, I’m finding myself swimming in my own head. Like I’ve said in my previous post, I’m not in school anymore. I’m not running off to classes or completing assignments; I’m not running through academic hoops. But it’s as if although I’ve finished this obstacle, there’s still a bigger one to climb. Plugging on forward based on my own goals and not someone else’s is really much harder than it looks, and I’m not sure that anyone has really mastered it.
I remember thinking a year ago that if I could finish my M.A. degree in one year, I could do anything. I pictured my future self as the best version of myself. Brilliant, beautiful, and ready to kick butt.
And I was right. I’m a little stronger and more self-assured now. But I still doubt my direction. While my work ethic is stellar, I think I actually have more doubts now than before, simply because I’ve been given the time to think. As a student, you’re constantly focusing on the next assignment, and your thoughts are often centred around how great you’ll feel when you finish the task. And it’s hard to think past that milestone if that’s what’s been getting you through your degree.
Now, the questions are: When are you going to get a job? What will you do with your degree? When you don’t know the answers, the questions can be quite intimidating. After being in school for so long, thoughts of having a “real job” can feel both like a liberation, as well as a chain. You are given an income, but also put into a box. Your job title can feel like your label.
Maybe you read this and relate. Maybe you’re changing jobs, changing programs, or have graduated just now yourself. The world defines us by many things: our appearance, our career choices, and the connections we make. And it’s exhausting.
I remember as a child, I used to get very defensive about being called my parents’ daughter, instead of by my own name. Stop trying to peg me, I thought. My name is Sarah. I wanted to be my own person. I’ve never liked being put into a box. While for the past 20 years I’ve been a student, I’ve never been just a student. I’ve had many hats. But I can’t shake the feeling that choosing a direction from here gives me only one hat. I like variety.
This all comes down to identity, especially our identity in Christ. I know that. I think it’s pretty human to want to be individuals though. Even though as Christians we are all God’s children, we are given individual strengths and weaknesses that we each need to use. And how, I think, is ultimately up to us.
So where do I go from here?
The honest answer? I don’t know. But I’m tired of being asked “What’s next?”. Whether or not there is pressure to answer immediately, I still feel it. And I’m tired of feeling like I need to give an “acceptable” answer. “I don’t know” should be an acceptable answer.
I think that the next time someone asks me what I’ll be doing with a Masters in Linguistics, I’ll tell them that I want to be a Californian beach bum.
At least it’d be warm.