The absolute worst question you can ask a college student is “What are you doing after college?” Seems like an innocent enough question, after all, you’d think we’d know, considering that we have to be going to school for something. While it’s a valid question, it reminds us of how absolutely terrified we are about our futures.
We’re going to school for four years or maybe more to do something we have no idea if we’ll actually like. I’ve chosen a major from a list like you might choose a dish from a menu at a restaurant you’ve never visited. We’ve all done our research as best we can about what we might like to do, but at the end of the day, I don’t know what it’s like to work in marketing all day, every day. I can try and glean that from an internship, but I’ll never really know until I’ve spent four years studying and plenty of money on my education. Right now I’m interested in marketing, but will I be in five years? Ten years?
Like most college students, when I get asked this simple question, in the back of my mind I question my academic decisions. Have I found my passion and career? Will I know it when I do?
The issue of passion is what separates a life calling from a dead-end job. It’s the thing that leads people to throw away their careers, and it’s the lack of it that leads people to throw away their lives at a job they don’t love. Passion, I think, is what we’re really terrified about when we’re asked about our futures. Even if I don’t get a million-dollar job, I’ll find something. With a college degree, most likely I won’t go jobless. I think the fear isn’t in not finding a job, but in getting what we want and realizing it’s not what we want at all.
This isn’t unique to college students. For adults, the fear is the same, only there’s often a lot more on the line. Choosing a job which one is not passionate about may mean making a decision that can’t easily be changed because of obligations to earn money for family and to pay off debts.
This fear, while understandable, is keeping us from living. As a wise woman I knew once said, “Passion comes on little cat feet.” Finding one’s true passion in life is like stumbling upon a four-leaf clover on a meadow. You’re going to have to look through a lot of three-leaf clovers first.
So for college students and adults alike, your education will never be useless. Even if I graduate and realize I hate marketing and decide to go to law school or something, I’ll still have something interesting to say at cocktail parties. I’ll have a greater expanse of knowledge about the world and with the work put into gaining that knowledge I’ll have built my character in the process.
The same goes for jobs. Finding one’s calling means trying a lot of things that aren’t your calling. Having a job which you are not passionate about not only helps you narrow things down but can teach you skills you’ll need for your passion later. Maybe you realize you hate accounting and want to go into owning a bike shop instead. It will sure be helpful to know how all your bikes are valued when you’re looking at your taxes. (Business examples abound here; sorry I’m a business nerd.)
It is never too late in life to find your passion or to change passions should you find yourself passionate about something else. Every life experience you’ve had can only enrich what you bring to the table, regardless of whether your passion is career-related or you decide to pursue something different entirely.
So for those of you who are second-semester seniors and biology majors sitting in your Intro to Philosophy class going, “Oh no, what if I really like this….” There’s hope. The knowledge you gain is always valuable, whether intrinsically or extrinsically in what it taught you about being a learner. And for those of you who are already in the workforce, if you haven’t been listening, start. You might not have heard passion meowing at your door, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.