After a quick re-watching of “The Graduate” this week, I have to give a little credit to Dustin Hoffman’s confused titular character. I bet he’d been getting the question for years before he comes on screen: “What are you going to do with your life?” It’s the most irritating thing – I’ve heard it so many times myself lately that I bookmarked the ulcers page on WebMD.
Beware: the question is often hidden in different forms. “What happens after graduation, champ?”, “What’s the plan?”, “I heard they’re hiring at Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey. You should send a resume.”
OK, the last one’s a bit far-fetched, maybe out of date, and I’m fortunate enough to have no relations to people who call other people “champ,” but the point stands. The worst part is that most of the time the question comes when I’m sitting next to a future astrophysicist who has the plan all mapped out.
At this point, with a year and some change left at Marquette, I’m feeling more and more pressure to come up with an articulate response to the question. It’s almost like whatever I tell the questioners, they’re going to hold me to it. And if that’s true, the responses of the past 20 years have me doing lots of different things: writing for newspapers, becoming a veterinarian, probably being an astronaut and some sort of zoologist to appease childhood responses. I think my brother responded to the question once when he was a kid stating he wanted to be “a prisoner.” Different strokes for different folks, I guess – or maybe the question itself is a bunch of drivel.
Plus, my interests cross-pollinate. I mean, I loved geometry in high school, and I’d also like to learn scuba diving. That could be what I’ll do, who knows? I just learned from the Internet that I have a natural skill of clearing ear pressure that is very desirable in the world of scuba – maybe it’s my calling.
Once you have that future set in stone, all the fun of wondering goes out the window, and that’s something I want to hold onto a bit longer. So for now I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an “I don’t know.” Maybe the future astrophysicist is just practicing for the career – “I don’t knows” don’t fly at NASA, I’m sure – but for now, hey, I don’t know.
Maybe the best way to go about this is to answer in negation. “I will not be a lawyer.” It’s a start.
Tony Manno is a junior double majoring in journalism and writing-intensive English. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.