Making the most of “I don’t know”

By Leslie Ferrell
Managing Editor

We’ve all been asked the same question since we were in kinder- garten: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We never hesitated to respond and the answers were always exciting. A ballerina, doctor, fireman or president were a few; anything and every- thing was possible.

Now, the question is worded a little differently: “What do you want to do after you graduate?” Suddenly we need to be more serious and realistic in our answer, and what used to be so easy to an- swer and fun to think about has become incredibly daunting, more difficult to answer and much more uncertain.

For the past four years, I have been asked this question and my answer has always been, “I have no idea.” At least I’m consistent.

Even though it happens at least once a week, I appreciate being asked, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t like being expected to have an answer just yet. Not just because it’s sad to think about leaving a place I’ve called home for the past four years, or because I legitimately have no idea what I want to do after I graduate, but because in the grand scheme of things, I’m only 21, and it’s ridiculous to think I should have my entire life planned out at this point.

For those of you who do have a plan, at least for the next few years, I think that’s awesome, and I can’t help but be a little bit jealous. Whether it’s teaching overseas, going to seminary, beginning your career or going to grad school, you’ve been blessed with undeniable gifts and filled with dreams and goals that you should fol- low with all of your heart.

But for those of you who don’t have a specific plan in mind, like me, recognize that you have also been blessed. You still have time. Trust me, I’ll have to keep reminding myself of this as May approaches and the real world draws closer and closer – but it’s true. We’re still growing up, and there is no rule that says we have to know exactly what we want right now.

I’m not saying that we should not be thinking about these things at all, though. It’s very important for us to keep the future in mind and be working toward a goal. I’m also not trying to be overly encouraging or sentimental, because I know hearing those things can be very cliché and easy to dismiss too. But it is also important to not develop a kind of tunnel vision. Our minds can easily get weighed down with plans and tasks that take our focus and cause us to miss out on everything else, especially in a fast-paced society that says we should always have it all together. Having goals is great, and achieving them is even better, but every now and then the best thing for us to do is slow down, take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

College is a time to figure these things out, even if you get to the end and still aren’t exactly sure where you’re headed. We have opportunities now that we may never have again, and the last thing I want to do is look back and regret not making the most of them. This is a time to learn, grow and explore. It is a time to make the most of every opportunity you’re given, form relationships with others and learn from mistakes. It is not a time to waste, but a time to take full advantage of.

Obviously there is a balance here – we do have to put in effort and hard work and we cannot expect plans for the future to just fall in our laps. But we must also have faith that God is working it out according to His plan and His timing. He sees the whole picture where we are limited by time. But if we are in prayer and trusting in Him, He won’t let us miss it.

Coming in as a freshman as an undecided major, I was incredibly relieved to have an answer for at least that question at the end of my sophomore year. Everyone always told me I would eventually figure it out, and though I usually doubted them, they were right.  

Still, when asked what my plans are for after graduation, as I was just this past Sunday, my answer is the same as it has always been. It can be a bit dis- couraging when I hear from all of the people who do have plans for the next few years, but currently mine is simply to keep up with my classes and com- mitments, spend time with my friends and enjoy all I can out of senior year. And for now, I think that’s OK.

Don’t forget what it was like to be a kindergartener and know exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up. Dream big, set goals and make plans. Keep your priorities straight and get your homework done. But don’t forget to enjoy this time you’ve been given, recognize what is most important and fully live in each moment. Sometimes it’s OK if you’re answer is, “I don’t know.”