So, what’s next?
A lot of fresh graduates or soon to be graduates who are usually in their early twenties are often quizzed with different versions of that question above. Basically, family, friends and everyone in between want to know what your next plan of action is, what your next move will be, graduate degree? how you’ll gain financial independence, marriage?, kids? Etc.
I know for a fact that a lot of us in our twenties find it very difficult to answer those questions immediately or if we attempt to answer, give concrete answers because we have just emerged from the textbook phase of our lives and are being plunged into the ‘real world’ and we’re scared, excited, confused and intimidated and it is very likely that we cannot even give our very selves resolute answers. The byproduct of the interminable queries, external pressure, often leads to internal pressure which gives room for a lot of crippling effects on us. I for one can testify to this because I happen to be at this very stage in my life.
I understand that our twenties happen to be a very crucial period in our lives and most of the decisions we make will have a ripple effect on the rest of our lives. Our parents and family ordinarily mean well when they drill us with questions about the future because honestly our twenties will not last forever and they believe that we need to lay the necessary foundations for the rest of our lives as soon as possible. The problem arises when they start to become insensitive and impatient, making us feel somewhat incompetent with our lives and undeserving of the attention and help being given to us. For a person who still struggles with low self-esteem, the need to please our parents, self-doubt or any of these related things, it can become really hard to deal with. It would mean being swayed into taking paths that we know do not sit well with us at all or being coerced into making decisions that do not make us feel like we’re doing something meaningful or purposeful with our lives. I mean some of us will want to deviate from our current career path, make risky career choices, try to make our dreams a reality and what have you but when we’re faced with this external pressure we fold and give up on so many things which could, in turn, lead to regrets and or dissatisfaction in future.
Tackling external pressure is never easy, I do not believe there is a proper recipe that can be passed downed or learned to approach this form of pressure and even I haven’t completely learned how to deal with it. I think this is so because this form of pressure comes from people we love and hold in the highest esteem and sometimes we do not want to fail them more than we do not want to fail ourselves but we must remember that the life in question belongs to us and we should learn how to assert ourselves and defend our positions when it comes to family and friends. I am not saying that we cannot be open to suggestions or helpful advice but we should learn to sift through the negative and the positive. It is hard and requires a lot of patience but when done will remind our loved ones who’s in the drivers’ seat.
This is pressure from within and occasionally more fatal than external pressure. When we allow this form of pressure to take root in our lives it’s like we are damaging the engine of our being, we will cease to function properly and this will lead to half-hearted choices and decisions which will produce the same effects as the external pressure but in monumental proportions because when things go wrong and we begin to have regrets, we do not have the comfort of blaming our parents or any other member of our family.
This is equally hard to tackle because very often we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others, using another person’s life as a sort of blueprint for ours forgetting that we are unique and special beings each with his/her own path and destiny that can never ever be identical to another person’s.
I had a brief conversation with a close cousin a few weeks before my graduation and she told me amongst other things that one of the biggest mistakes she made as a fresh graduate was rushing to get a job. I know this sounds a bit weird because as a graduate that’s usually the ideal next step except you want to apply for a master’s degree immediately (or you’re a Nigerian and you have NYSC standing in your way) but I completely agree.
Maybe I accepted this too because I don’t feel as though I’m ready to have a proper job with the commitments and the responsibilities attached to it (I also am aware that not everyone can afford this ‘luxury’ because it usually means still living off mummy, daddy or whoever) but the main reason I know that was in accord with my thoughts is because I believe that I have some questions that need to be answered and I need to polish my capabilities. Getting a job immediately might not afford me the time and energy I need to get all that done. It would only introduce me into a cycle I’ll find very difficult to break.
I do not have conclusive answers to the question of ‘what’s next’ and honestly, I think all I’m saying is that I understand. I really do. I only recommend that whatever path you take or decisions you make are well thought out and not imposed on you by anyone or anything. Give room for introspection, note the things you’re passionate about, the things you’ve always wanted to try, examine your milieu, acquire relevant skills and most importantly (if you’re a believer) seek God’s guidance.
The journey of self-discovery is a never ending one and our twenties just happen to be one of the most interesting parts of our journey. We will win, lose, draw but most importantly, we will learn and grow. It is okay to not have all the answers, but keep learning, reading, speaking, listening, watching, acting and most importantly, living. Everything will fall into place, even when you least expect it to.
“you live out the confusions until they become clear”- Anais Nin
Peace and much love to you,