When someone graduates high school and college, they face an immense amount of pressure to know exactly what they want to do with their life and to know how to do it. With a pandemic still raging around us, though, our vision of the future is even more muddied than it ever has been before. This should be the start of normalizing gap years, odd jobs, change of degree, and self-exploration. Society needs to stop shaming those who are not on a traditional career or educational path and start celebrating non-linear journeys that can be just as fulfilling.
Taking time off between high school and college, or between undergrad and graduate school, is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, with over 40 percent of recent graduates investing in a gap year. According to a study of those who have taken that time off, an overwhelming majority said that the gap year has helped to increase their self-confidence, while 40 percent said that it helped in narrowing down their career choices. Most of the gap year alumni who were surveyed said that they took the time off because they needed time to gain more experience and grow personally, proving that taking a step back from the traditional route can be helpful to one’s mental health and self-worth.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80 percent of all college students change their degree at least once. Families, friends, professors, counselors may be putting pressure on you to know exactly what you want to do once you get to college, but if you’re unsure, or you don’t end up enjoying the degree path that you chose, you are certainly not alone. Life is all about the exploration of different interests and passions, and college is a perfect time to try new avenues for your future.
Even when you’re out of college, it is still ok to not know what you want to do with your life. According to a study, people in the United States change jobs at least one time every five years. According to another study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 27 percent of people obtain job titles that relate to their degree. So, even if you do find a degree path you love, but not a job yet, it’s ok. You’re certainly not the only one.
There is no rush to figure anything out by a certain time either. Success can be defined and redefined at any age. Julia Child published her first cookbook at 39 and didn’t start her cooking show until she was 51. Stan Lee created his first comic book at 39. Samuel L. Jackson got his first leading role at the age of 43. Jane Lynch was cast in her breakout role when she was 40. When Ava DuVernay was 32, she changed careers and decided to become a filmmaker.
It’s ok if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Only you can define success and what it means to you. Everybody’s journey is unique. So be patient with yourself, and soon enough, you’ll know.
About the Author:
Madison Rose graduated with honors from the University of Colorado with a degree in psychology specializing in forensic psychology. She was a lead organizer of Denver’s March for Our Lives as well as the founder and Vice President of Never Again — Colorado. Madison also founded and served as the director of Public Relations for Vote for Our Lives, in addition to establishing Students Demand Action in the state of Colorado. Madison has been a guest lecturer on anti-violence activism at the University of Colorado and Regis University. You can follow her on Instagram @starringmadisonrose.