Thursday, November 26, 2020

College life should be savored, not rushed

I am two classes shy of fulfilling my degree requirements, and I’ve realized I may have chosen the wrong major. What the right major should have been is beyond me. So I filled out a Strong Interest Inventory in hopes of finding some direction in my life. Graduation looms in the not so distant future, so I figured it might just be a good idea to choose some kind of career.

Strong Interest Inventories are basically “scientific” analysis of what job a person should have based on personality, preferences, hobbies, etc. They are a step above the surveys given to high school seniors, the same surveys that once told me I would make an excellent mortician. Gee, thanks.

People from a variety of professions take similar surveys. My answers will then be compared to the answers of, for example, doctors, lawyers or truckers. The professionals I most mirror theoretically hold the jobs suited to me. The results are not yet in, but if they come back positive for mortician, I may need to re-evaluate myself. In the meantime I’m just looking for a little push in the right direction.

During my mid-midlife identity crisis, I attended a job fair. I don’t know what kind of job I was trying to find. I don’t even want a job! But I figured getting a taste of the job search scene might be a good idea.

After wandering around for a while, I finally stopped at a few companies. Gap seemed like a logical choice. I’m slightly clothes-obsessed. Gap was taking all majors and its headquarters is in San Francisco. Sweet, I thought. I could totally work for Gap. (I figure if I were working at Gap, I would have to start saying “totally” a lot). But, unfortunately, it was mostly recruiting for students to enroll in its management school in California.

Moving on, I found a couple companies with some promising publishing internships and the dark cloud of pregraduation anxiety looming above my head began to lighten. That is, until I realized I would have to work 40-plus hours a week unpaid.

So I went home, watched “The Real World” marathon and drowned my sorrows in half a pack of Oreo cookies. This whole working thing is overrated anyway, right?

Life will not be as easy as it is now for a long time. When again will we live in a big old crusty house with six of our closest friends? I live with 10 people and the crustiness factor of our house is unsuitable for anyone other than a student. For example, our shower periodically decides to completely cease the flow of water when you’re in it. So we have to just hang out for about 10 minutes, cold and soapy, until it comes back on.

The power sometimes goes out as well. Showers in the pitch black are interesting, however I’ve never experienced the power-out, water-off shower combo. One can only hope.

And sure, I complain about school and studying and the grime that is my refrigerator, but when it comes down to it, I’m really not ready to leave. Even though I scream “I can’t wait to get out of here!” from my bedroom window every morning, that doesn’t mean I’m really ready to leave MSU and the 40,000 kids who literally are my neighbors.

Of course, it’s no fun to stay in college when everyone in your network has graduated and moved on. So I’m stuck in a developmental limbo somewhere between a desire to be a fully independent, self-supporting, working woman and a kid who feels like she just graduated from high school and is not ready to “grow up.” While my classmates are thinking about 401Ks and stock options, I’m thinking of what to have for dinner.

There is a considerable amount of pressure on young people to succeed. At 21, we’re expected to have the career, the car, the investments and the big fat retirement plan. We have been socially constructed from a young age to overvalue the importance of making a living and having money, status and power. Seven-year-olds are telling the class what they want to be when they grow up, clad in their Gap Kids and Abercrombie & Fitch outfits. Incoming freshmen are often picking majors based on future salaries and not what they really want to do with their lives. Admittedly, I suppose I have become a product of an idealistic environment as well, wanting it all but not quite knowing how to get it.

When it comes down to it, what matters is not how soon you make your millions or what kind of car you drive. (Although someday I hope to be driving a big shiny BMW, but that’s beside the point). Before rushing into a big career and working five days a week for the next 30 years, why not enjoy being young and do something worthwhile?

It’s those who go off and backpack through Asia for six months after graduating who I look up to, not those who immediately start working 60 hours a week and make close to six figures. They are the ones I’ll look up to in 10 years, but not yet.

I may not know where I’m headed in the future and know I won’t find my dream job in May (suggestions as to what that job is are welcome). Maybe I won’t even be ready for a career come May. But when I do decide what to do I will be happy with where I’ve been and never have to say “I wish I would have ” 20 years from now.

Kelly Hardy, a State News undergraduate columnist, can be reached at hardyke1@msu.edu.

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