Finding joy amidst uncertainty

When worrying about the future never stops

As we were sitting at Easter brunch, a friend of mine recounted how her family had recently grilled her about her future. Given that she has had a job since the beginning of the school year, this surprised me. I asked, “So that doesn’t stop even after you get a job?” One of the adults at the table chuckled and said, “Honey, it never stops.”

It’s funny I asked that, because just a few days later, I accepted a job offer. Finally, years of uncertainty about what I am going to do after I graduate came to a close. It was exciting and relieving, but it was also somewhat anti-climactic. I still had to do homework that night, go to class in the morning and live out my life just as I would have if I still hadn’t found a job — minus browsing job postings and going to interviews.

Even beyond sticking to my normal routine, I found myself wondering about things further in the future. “Will I ever go to grad school now?” or “I wonder how long I’ll do this job for” were thoughts that crossed my mind. Minutes after I started getting worried about what comes next, I mentally scolded myself for once again starting to stress about the future.

Of course, I am now able to answer the dreaded question of, “What are you going to do next year?” — but I have already begun to find that more questions follow. Others have begun to verbalize my inner wonderings, and I can’t help but be a little annoyed at how short the oasis of finding a job lasted.

It seems as though the man at Easter brunch was correct — wondering about the future never does stop. I went through college largely with the subliminal assumption that everything would be fine once I figured out what I was doing afterwards, and this has proven to be incorrect. Really, I should have known better — I had expected the same thing in high school when I decided what college I was going to.

But I don’t want to let the uncertainty of the future stress me out any longer. If this whole job search has taught me anything, it is the need to live joyfully amidst uncertainty. Life is going to be an endless cycle of certainty and mystery, and I need to appreciate the beauty of that. Wouldn’t life be boring if there was a road map laying out our every move right in front of us?

My friend Robert recently told me whenever someone asks him what he wants to be, he responds, “Robert.” I wish I had given this response to my dentist, my hair-dresser and my random acquaintances who grilled me over the years about what I wanted to be after graduation, and how my degree in English and Religious Studies would help me get there. Because, in the end, as long as we are trying to stay true to who we are, the future will work itself out.

Even though I am just learning this lesson at the end of college, I would encourage others to apply it earlier on. I spent so much of my college career stressing out about not knowing what I was going to do, but none of those moments of stress were what led me to my new job. Rather, it was the times when I pursued what excited me and gave me joy that put me on the path I’m on now.

So, even if you don’t know what career you want, or what major you want, that is okay. What is not okay is if you ignore what you can be certain of — the topics that interest you, the activities that excite you and the situations that bring you joy. I can promise you those passions will lead you to where you need to be.

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