The question of the decade, “so, what are you going to do?”. I suppose this question is nothing new, but around the time you fill out college applications to the time you graduate college (and beyond I’m sure), this question makes a guest appearance in just about every conversation. Maybe this question is like an acquaintance you try to avoid when you just want to grab a coffee with no makeup on, or maybe it’s like a friend you’re dying to introduce. From your mother’s best friends to your academic advisor, to the lady scanning your groceries at check out, everyone wants to know how you plan to spend the next eighty some years of your life.
Now, there is no problem with asking this question, I ask people this question purely out of curiosity. This is not to victimize those curious about our lives, in fact, I’d like to draw attention to the way we choose to respond to such a question we’re sometimes hoping to avoid.
When did this unwelcome pressure make its way into our lives and make itself at home, lounging in our hearts? Why do we feel like we need to have everything figured out and why do we feel the need to label our future with a career path? Most likely, the person asking doesn’t have their life figured out either. That’s what makes us human. After all, we all don’t really have the answers and in my experience no one expects me to have them either.
Maybe we welcome this pressure in unknowingly when we compare ourselves to others. Are we trying to impress the curious one across from us with an extravagant answer including a perfectly laid out plan for life? Sometimes pride steps in and we feel this need prove ourselves. Of course, nobody wants to come across as if their life is a dysfunctional mess. As for me, I was addicted to maintaining an image of put-togetherness. I still am, but I’m working on it.
There are times I shy away from responding with my greatest ambition because I’m afraid I won’t live up to it (anyone else?). I think this is more dangerous than avoiding the question in general. I think we really should share our dreams because it just might encourage others to share theirs too.
Your answer might be, “I’m still trying to figure it out” and that is totally okay. Maybe you really are, but I bet you’ve got a dream locked up inside your heart you’re dying to pursue. It may not be realistic, but who says it has to be?! I think it's worth sharing. I think when you choose to be brave and respond with something so bold, you’ll catch people by surprise. I want us to be people filled with surprising answers and a spirit of boldness. Not ones hiding in fear and uncertainty.
I recently grabbed dinner with one of my dearest friends and we got to talking about this subject. We reminisced on our future and where we think we’ll be in five years. She asked me what I’d like to do and I leaned on my go-to answer, “I know I’d like to work for a wholesome company that shares my values, ideally for a publication”. Yes, this is what I’d like to do, absolutely. Is this the only thing I’d like to do? Absolutely not. I have more than one dream! I shared these thoughts and shared more of what I’d like to do in life and she said something that completely shifted the way I think about this question. She said, “Well, you only have to decide what you want to do first”. First.
We don’t have to put ourselves in a box, limit our life to pursuing only one dream. We shouldn’t take a question like, “what do you want to do?” and shrink away in fear, we should actually share what we’d like to do. We should never feel like we can’t do more than one thing and we certainly shouldn’t limit ourselves to pursuing one thing. We shouldn’t back away and share a safe answer, let's respond with glistening eyes, knowing that what where we’ll end up is ultimately up to God.
My palms get sweaty at the thought of graduating and taking a step into the unknown life ahead of me, but there is something so thrilling about leaping into the unknown as well. The pressure leaving with the word “first”. An adventure isn’t one giant step, it’s about taking a first step and then a second.
If you don’t have life figured out, welcome to the club. If you do have life figured out, are you human?! We have dreams and we should share them. They may change as we grow, but there is no shame in sharing who you’d like to become. Don’t let this be a question you avoid, take this question and respond in such a way that’ll make others dream too. This step can be our first. What’s your second?