When we were little, we were constantly asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Our answers may have started as astronauts and rock stars, but answers like that stopped being acceptable a long time ago. Now we’re expected to have a “real” answer, a specific path to what we want for our future, a five-year plan. Now people aren’t asking us “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They’re asking us “What’re you going to do when you graduate?”
Sometimes it feels like everything in our lives leads up to one moment: the moment we graduate and enter the “real world,” the moment we’ve finally “grown up.”
And that’s a lot of pressure.
Every spring, seniors sit in their final semester of classes counting down the days until graduation — some more excitedly than others. There’s a bittersweet tone that fills every senior’s voice as they talk about where they’ll be next fall and what they hope to be doing.
Some students laugh as they put the days of homework and midterm exams behind them, even if that means leaving their favorite professors behind as well. Some students smile as they talk about continuing their education and getting one step closer to doing what they love, even if that means leaving The Bluff and going somewhere unfamiliar. And still others stare silently at their hands and worry to themselves about not having a clear plan for their future.
There are plenty of students, seniors or otherwise, who don’t have a clear-cut path ahead of them. And that’s OK.
We are young. We have plenty of time to make plans. We have plenty of time to find our passion. We have plenty of time to meet the love of our lives. We have our entire life to answer the question: Who do you want to be?
For some people, answering that question right now is simple. With a job lined up for after graduation and an apartment already leased, they have an idea of who they will become. For others, the answer is more complicated. But that’s OK.
Life is long and our expectations and circumstances may shift. Job offers may fall through. Relationships might fade. The things that interest and energize us now may change. And that’s OK — but that doesn’t mean we should stop striving.
UP has given us the knowledge, resources, and tools to be successful. UP has endowed us with powers that we need for whatever future endeavors we take on. It’s important that we take the time to make sure we’re using our powers for good, no matter what we’re doing.
If you’re unhappy with where you are, do something about it. If you had your heart set on a certain grad school and weren’t accepted the first time around, it’s OK to get a part-time job while you wait to apply for next year. If you always wanted to live somewhere that’s across the country, it’s OK to move back in with your parents while you save up for your first down payment.
There is no right way to start your life in the “real world.” There is no right way to be an adult. Just because other people have taken one path, doesn’t mean you have to travel the same one — even if you’re both heading for the same destination.
So don’t compare yourself to the person sitting next to you at graduation. We all took different paths to get to college, so we’ll undoubtedly be taking different paths when we leave. But despite our differences, when we sit in Chiles and fidget uncomfortably in our caps and gowns, we will all understand what it has meant to be a Pilot.