Aiming for a paycheck and job security isn’t the answer.
When I graduated, I had thought of myself as mature. I had a shiny new college degree and a salaried job.
I felt like a grown up, and was proud to declare it so.
I was a kid full of ambition but without a direction. I wanted to leave my comfort zone but didn’t know how or why.
Distractions swarmed. Friends and family, classmates, career fairs, internships all pushed me in different directions, though none consulted me where I wanted to go.
That ripe kid had no idea, neither where he wanted to go nor who he was.
How is an impressionable, 20-something-year-old supposed to find himself if everyone else has something to say about it?
We thrust expectations onto ourselves and others, as prisoners to the moment and slaves to external demands. Off we go, looking for job security, something respectable. Something we can tell our friends’ parents about without feeling sheepish.
Do we really need so much, so fast? At 20-, 21-, 22-years-old, what is the rush? We pursue the expectations that set in around us, and those expectations are usually ingrained by others, not ourselves.
Ask a second-grader what they want to do when they grow up. I guarantee they won’t say, “something respectable!”
Sure, we all hope to land somewhere secure and cozy and predictable — eventually. But it’s the wrong message to send graduates right out the gate. We scurry about like headless hens, worrying we’re falling behind if we don’t have a job, mortgage, spouse, 401K, and kids within three months of graduation.
Why should we strive to “settle down” before we have tried the opposite?
Nobody will ever say outright that their biggest goal in life is to be comfortable. Maybe down the line, it happens as a consequence. But it rarely starts out as the target we aim for.
A society saturated with WiFi and inundated with social media has duped us graduates into believing we are more mature than we are. We think that, because we’ve graduated, we are ready to do what our parents do. Put on big-kid pants. Make six-figures.
Just because we are smart, educated, and competent with smartphones doesn’t mean we can skip the journey it takes to arrive at wisdom and experience.
Of course, some of us are ready. But most of us aren’t. Either way, there’s a hell of a lot more to do then seek stability the very moment we’re released from a formal education.
Who decided that the best thing to do was continue the pattern of predictability following the previous 16 years of schooling?
The math speaks for itself
If you start a career at 21, that leaves 46 years left of work(!) — and that’s pretending the retirement age won’t increase within the next couple decades. When I hear “46 years,” I don’t immediately feel a great sense of urgency.
Think of it this way: you get a high-paying, ultra-stable career immediately after graduation. Job security? Check. Financial freedom? Check. You can have your country club membership, a balanced checkbook, and multiple white-picket fences.
Secure and Stable, each with a capital S.
Then, you wake up. You’re 60 years old and receiving a pat on the back at your retirement party. People congratulate you with “good job” and “see you on the golf course!”
“I made it! Now it’s time for my adventure! I’m so glad I rushed into a career immediately after graduation!”
Is that what you’re going to say at your retirement? Is this the moment to uproot your life and go to Ecuador or Paris or Thailand?
I’m being more than a bit facetious. This example is flippant and ridiculous. But I thought about this deeply when I graduated last year. It scared me. It pushed me down a different path.
Since I graduated, I’ve been living and traveling in Asia.
There have been ups and downs, bad moments and surreal ones. I stumbled down a loose and tortuous path, collecting bruises and smiles and stories. An abundance of uncertain avenues lends itself to an expanded comfort zone and surprise adventures.
I haven’t looked back just yet, and I’m still looking for something to regret.
I’ve framed my foreseeable future as one of adventure rather than security. I’d much rather look back on my 20’s and see a storybook full of stories, not a stellar LinkedIn profile.
I live simply, travel often, and try my best to avoid thinking about settling down. Of course, there is foolishness in that. I’m not so daft as to not recognize that. Security is necessary — just not yet.
But hey, at 22, who isn’t a bit foolish? It’s part of the adventure.