My Imperfect Plans

Recently in one of my education classes, my professor assigned us a water color art project. As I sat there with my brush at hand, I recall being overwhelmed by the multiple colors on my pallet and the blank sheet of ivory paper in front of me. You see, normally I am good at this artsy stuff. Math, not so much. But I had just finished applying for graduation and I could not shake off the worrisome feelings that were crowding my thoughts.

Graduation. On normal terms, the question that tags along with this word is, “What’s next?”

If you are anything like me, you never seem to have a consistent answer. One year, I wanted to be a veterinarian. The next year, a journalist. The year after, a teacher. One time, for 10 minutes, I wanted to be a firefighter.

I seem to stumble upon this problem quite often. In grade school, when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I probably enthusiastically yelled out nine different occupations, in which only seven out of the nine options realistically existed in my whimsical six-year-old mind.

By my second year of college, when asked about my plans for the future, I simply responded with a “I don’t know.” Then the person asking the question would politely smile and say “Don’t worry, you’re young. You still have time.”

I am now a super senior, a fifth-year. Not much has changed. Besides the fact that I grew about a foot and I now drink black coffee. I still have the mentality of the once six-year-old little girl that had nine different occupations running through her head. Only this time, they are all real. At least, I think they are.

Society has influenced our minds to live our lives in a monotonous sequence. First, they bait us with delicious peanut butter jelly sandwiches, colorful monkey bars and naptime. Then we are off to learn at the big kid’s school, next is college and then BAM – we’re supposed to know what the hell we want to be and do for the rest of our lives.

Hey Society, screw you.

To the graduating class of 2013 and those after us, there is no need for a plan deemed “perfect” in the eyes of our society. It is okay to not have a full-time job lined up for you right after college. It is okay to live paycheck to paycheck while working at a few fun jobs. It is okay to volunteer your time in Africa, building homes, playing with the children and learning about their culture. It is okay to skimp out on grad school and use your savings for a one-way plane ticket to New York to chase your dreams as a journalist. It is okay to not have everything figured out.

Here are a few options I have been considering while the next chapter in my life inevitably unravels as a newly college graduate.

Find work abroad. For most of us, we live in this bubble which requires us to hang out with the same set of friends and live life through our mundane routines. We often forget there is another world out there. Take a step outside your comfort zone and start job searching around the globe. Working abroad will allow you to earn money while experiencing culture, finding adventure and learning to stand on your own two feet.

Volunteer. There are plenty of organizations that will pay you to volunteer your time to help others, whether it be local or abroad, i.e. Peace Corps, teaching English abroad, building homes for the poor, medical missions trip, etc.  “Seek to do good, and you will find that happiness will run after you.” – James Freeman Clarke.

This is what the era of our ’20s is all about – to learn and grow, to do kind acts of service, take risk and find adventure – because I believe that the combination of these will lead to love and happiness, which is ultimately what we are all looking for.

I am writing this advice to you as if I know what I am doing, but I do not have a clue. I too, am a victim of society’s outlook for a “perfect” plan after graduation. I am scared out of my mind to graduate because I am unsure of what will happen next. But I have decided to embrace the endless unknown possibilities and the opportunities borne from spontaneity.

Graduation is just around the corner and I am still a starving artist trying to figure out the right colors to mix on my pallet, which is perfectly fine. It doesn’t matter what colors I use because eventually everything will start to blend. I am going to just paint. Each stroke will tell a story of my adventures, success, failures and learned lessons that will come from my unperfected plan of not knowing.

In the end, my painted picture will be beautiful and so will yours.