I can sense it coming. I can see it in your eyes; tugging at you. It doesn’t matter if you’re younger than me or related to me or if you’re my waiter. You act like it’s a delicate subject, like the words “cancer” or “divorce”, like you might put me in an awkward position just by bringing it up. And yet, you want to know so badly that you don’t care and ask it anyway: “What are your plans after graduation?”
I hate this question. I avoid it at all costs. I have become the master at switching the subject to things of a more present nature, like movies or weddings or a paper I have to write next week. But still, it comes, and once one person asks it, everyone else wants to know. What is Haley Gatewood going to do with her future?
I can tell you that I’m going to spend two weeks in Europe at the end of May. I can tell you about my summer internship at a national advertising agency. I can explain that I’m going to start flipping houses with my Dad to help pay my loans. But you don’t want to hear that. You want to hear that I got a job with a steady salary, 401K, and health benefits. You want to hear that I’ve signed a lease on a swanky apartment uptown with a view and good parking. You want to hear that I’m different than the thousands of other graduating seniors across the country entering the job market.
This time last year I thought all my friends without jobs weren’t trying hard enough. Then I came to the realization that the job search is hard. Paying off your loans is hard. Moving off campus is hard. I used to think that upon graduation I’d be flooded with job offers and I could take my pick. I used to think that my success at college was determined by my starting bonus. But now I’m on the verge of graduating and I don’t have a full-time job, permanent living arrangements, or a steady income. The only dates on my calendar are the end of my internship and my friends’ weddings. And, you know what? I’m trying to be okay with that. I’m happy that some of my peers got hired 8 months ago on their first interview. I’m pleased when my friends get amazing opportunities to pursue their dreams in different cities or states. I’m looking forward to my trip and my internship. I’m okay not knowing and not having, because what I do know is that God has a plan for me that is far greater than anything I could have contrived–whether or not I have a brilliant resume or a stellar interview. And I’m getting used to the idea that it may not be on my time-table and it may not look like a monthly check or a new job title.
So please, stop asking me what I’m doing after graduation, because you won’t like my answer. Because the answer is that I don’t know.