I never liked kids.
My mom loves to tell the story of how, when I was five, I asked where babies come from. After she detailed the process in five-year-old speak, I wrinkled my nose.
“Am I going to have to do that?”
Don’t get me wrong, I like my own family members. I have several adorable Italian cugine and cugini. My boyfriend’s little brother and I play Legos on the regular. But most other kids, I’ll pass.
That’s why when I hear the dreaded “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I have my answers ready. No, I don’t want to teach. Haha, yeah, I might as well just go move into my mom’s basement already, you’re right. Liberal arts major? More like unemployed self absorbed millennial!
These kind of jokes started losing their lustre after freshman year. Sure, there aren’t any “English majors apply here!” or “WE WANT HISTORY MAJORS!” in the Wanted section (my dad, back when he went to UConn and got an English degree, was more surprised by this revelation). Because of this, I used to be petrified about lack of career path. It would be all I thought about in high school, mad at myself for not being more inherently talented at math and physics (though in retrospect, B’s aren’t that bad).
But my quarter life crisis revelation led to this: a career path is not the driving factor of my life. I didn’t think that was possible. I spent so much time fretting over finding the perfect career that perfectly tackled all my interests and hobbies. I never stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, I can go to college to learn, and not to secure me a magical lifelong, fulfilling job. I’m working on a career, sure, but I don’t need it to be perfect or destined to be. That’s what I’ll spend my free time doing.
It still sounds kind of crazy. Now that I’ve graduated and received my diplomas in English and History, I don’t feel any more adult or professional. I expected to finish college with a direction, solid as stone life goal, 401k, a STEM salary (I pretended the “E” stood for “English”), and a fifty-year plan. But I have none of that yet, and I’m fine with it, and that is almost worth the price tag. I learned about the kinds of poetry I love and the kinds I don’t love. I learned about Cuban revolutions, Russian tzars, and Irish literature. Through literature, I learned about the cultures of the world. And through history, I learned about their people and where we all came from. Perhaps most importantly, it proved that I really do not want to be a teacher or professor.
I once heard the reassuring phrase “if you want to make God laugh, make plans.” Life goes in a million crazy directions. People change, goals change, the world changes. What’s the point of trying to cement a path? This is not supposed to be for people who know what they want to “do.” Kids who’ve wanted to be doctors or chefs or monkey wranglers since day one. This is for the kids like me, who shrug at every career option, feeling forced into making a decision before we can even drink. What do I want to do with my life? I want to keep working at an animal shelter. I want to work on my writing. I want to burn out the magnetic strip on my library card. I want to eat lots of pizza and pet lots of cats. I want to work to live, and not live to work.
Sometimes, it does feel a little scary. But then I think of this: Ancient Egyptians brought food to the pyramids, making sure the spirit or ka of their loved ones wouldn’t go hungry in the afterlife. They feared that if they got hungry, the ka would resort to eating their own excrement.
That is a legitimate fear an ancient population had about their life.
I can only hope that my arcane fears and anxieties seem as silly and unwarranted in the future.