Tackling the Abyss – Life After University

“So, What’re Your Plans After University?”


Should I be a scientist?

Should I be a teacher?

Should I be a building???

Should I be a cat?????

Ah, the great existential question. Perhaps the most important of our young adult lives—and certainly one on all our minds as we near the end of our undergraduate careers and prepare to be launched into the bloodbath that is the job market.

The truth is, the possibilities are endless. All we really have to do is weigh our preferences with our talents and skills, and match those up with real world opportunities.

So then, what is it about this question that makes it seem so absolutely terrifying?

Personally, I think it’s fear.

The fear of incompetence. The fear that what we are setting out to do is beyond our measure of talent and ability.

We fear that a few years from now, we’ll be struggling while our friends and classmates are thriving—that we’ll have to return to the herd hanging our heads in defeat because we failed. I mean, we’re terrified that we’ll be knocking back a few with all our accountant and lawyer friends who knew exactly what they were going to do and who they were going to be right from freshman year, and who now earn six-figure salaries. (Guess who’s picking up the tab tonight…)

And this fear can be all-consuming—if we let it.

As a third-year student myself, I feel like I’m standing right at the edge of the cliff, preparing to take the plunge. And the closer I get to the summer of 2016, the more time I spend trying to tackle the uncertainty of life after university. I find these thoughts and fears flying through my mind on almost a daily basis. Scratch that—definitely on a daily basis. Multiple times a day, really.

What is it that I really want to do in the world? Where can my degree take me? Will I be earning enough money to lead a comfortable and happy lifestyle? Is this field something I can see myself in for the next 40 years or so? Will I be good at it?

And believe me, there are times when I get so confused and frustrated in trying to figure out my life that I just want to curl into a fetal position and let the emotional roller coaster take me where it may. (If you ever find me in this position—you now know why. Do not be alarmed.)

With that said, there are a couple of things I think is important to keep in mind.

Número uno: It’s not about the money.

Okay, kind of. Money is important, because we need it to survive and exist in today’s consumer-driven culture. But really, money is not everything.

I once read a Buzzfeed article and something from it stayed with me. It was about a nurse who documented the things the elderly would say on their deathbeds, and specifically what their biggest regrets were—the most common of them being that they had spent too much time trying to earn more and more money, and not enough time with their loved ones.

Am I alone in saying this gives me chills?

Lesson? Do not waste your youth trying to obtain wealth—the best kind of wealth is in the form of experiences and loved ones. I mean, no one on their deathbed is gonna talk about how happy they are that they still have a million dollars in the bank.

Número dos: You answer to you.

And no one else. The only standards you have to live up to are your own.

You decide your life. You decide what it is you’re going to do and how you’re going to spend your time. If you truly believe that the only way you’re going to be happy in the world is to obtain mass amounts of material wealth—hey man, by all means, go for it. You’re the only one who has to live with your decisions at the end of the day.

I realize this blog post was a bit of a whirlwind experience, but if there’s anything you take away from it, I hope it’s this:

  • You can do whatever it is you want in the world—you just have to know what that is.
  • Establish your priorities, and keep in mind the grand scheme of life.