As I’m sure it did for many, my winter break brought with it a string of family gatherings with cousins, aunts and uncles whom I haven’t seen since the previous holiday get-togethers. My family is large but extremely close, and since I’m only home for short periods of time, it’s nice to be able to catch up with them and with what I’m doing in my life.
But this year, it was close to nightmarish. I came to be able to sense when the dreaded question was on its way. The conversation would start off fine – “Hi Carlie, it’s great so see you!” – followed by a big hug. But then it would begin the downward spiral. “How’s Marquette? … You’re a senior this year, aren’t you?” At this point, it’s inevitable; the awful question is on its way out of Uncle John’s mouth and there’s absolutely no escape. “So what are your plans for after graduation?” And since it’s not considered polite or acceptable to give a relative a blank stare and simply walk away, I would be stuck trying to come up with something, anything to say.
It wasn’t just family members who decided this was the most important question for me to answer for them. High school acquaintances, friends’ parents, even people at my church whom I barely ever speak to all seem so invested in my plans after May 19. My life has been reduced to that date and what lies beyond.
But all these people cannot possibly be genuinely interested in the fact that I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to be doing or where I’m going to be living in five months’ time, can they? No. The answer is no, I don’t think they care.
The problem here is not my lack of post-collegiate plans but the need to make pointless small talk with people I don’t know all that much about. If someone really wants to know about me or is genuinely interested in having a conversation with me, I would very much appreciate them asking questions to which they actually want answers.
I do have a whole five months until I graduate. I’m sure my fellow seniors can back me up when I say it’s stressful enough to think about without everyone and their dog asking what I’m doing to fix the fact that I don’t have a job lined up already.
If you want to know about my life, ask about my classes. Ask about what I’m involved in on campus or what I like to do in Milwaukee for fun. I promise, as soon as I have plans, I will be shouting them from the mountaintops. Ask about literally anything but what my plans are after graduation.
I think if everyone took a step back and thought about what they are going to say before they say it, our interactions would be much more pleasant. Before asking the first question that comes to mind, think about whether you really care about the answer. Ask questions you really care about. The people you talk to will appreciate it, and you will find you get to know those around you on a deeper and more meaningful level.
Caroline Campbell is a senior in the College of Communication with a major in journalism and a minor in history. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.