The Question I Dread

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February 12, 2014

By Jenny Aitken

Now that I’m in my final year at university, I’m being asked The Question on almost a daily basis.  It is The Question every undergrad dreads, especially ones studying creative writing.

People look at me expectantly, “So, what’s your plan for after you graduate?”

It happens everywhere now. The grocery store, the library, when I run into an old family friend, anytime I speak to my Grandpa on the phone…

People ask The Question. I just sigh.  And I wrack my brain for an answer that will A) satisfy their concern that I will not be homeless and unemployed, but still B) be a dull enough response to receive no follow-up questions.

“I’ll probably attempt to get a job in journalism. When that invariably fails I will work at Tim Horton’s, and spend the majority of my time stuffing free donut crullers in my mouth to compensate for making minimum wage.”

Somehow I doubt that will satisfy them. No, I have to be optimistic, yet not too optimistic. Answering the Dreaded Question actually becomes quite an art form.

“I’ll probably move back in with my parents and look for work. Something stable so I can get some experience. Work my way up from there.”

That should do the trick.

I hate The Question because it is so loaded.  My interrogations squad doesn’t mean what am I going to do post-grad in terms of where will I go eat or will I frame my diploma. No, my persecutors mean what is my plan for my life.  For my career. How do I plan to make money, pay off my debts, put food on the table? And the real answer, the one I desperately want to say but never do, is that I don’t know. I don’t. After four years of university I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do, other then avoid all talk about “my future”.

Worse still are the Five-Year Planners. Not only do they expect you to know what you will do upon graduating, they also expect you to have a whole five years of your life mapped out, with goals and accomplishments to be achieved at specific times along the way.

I always wonder how they would feel if our roles were reversed.  What if I answered right back with where they think they’ll be in five years? What their plan is?  “So Joe, think in five you might have finally got the courage to leave your wife?” or “Margaret, what’s your plan now that your company is letting staff go? Think you’ll make the cut?”

But of course I would never do that, because people aren’t trying to drive me crazy with The Question. They’re asking because they care about me, want me to succeed and probably feel like they have to.

Maybe from now on I should just quote Timbuk3:  “I’m doing all right, getting good grades, the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

This will not answer The Question, but maybe, if I’m lucky, it will allow me a bit more time to figure out the answer.

Jenny Aitken is a student at the University of Victoria.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Doreen February 12, 2014 at 9:44 pm

This is totally awesome. Imagine a university student after four years of heart wrenching studying and writing exams does not know where her future lies. Join the crowd, there is always room for one more.

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