I’m a college senior, and I’m going to graduate in May. Thinking about what I’m going to do next year makes me so nervous and worried and anxious that I pretty much avoid thinking about it. My parents have encouraged me to take the LSAT and apply to law school, but I’m not sure I want to do that. I’ve considered applying to Ph.D programs in economics (my major), and I think I’d be interested in that, but I’m not sure where I’d end up or what I’d do with a Ph.D in econ. It seems like jobs in academia are few and far between, and I’m not sure I’d want to be a professor, anyway. A few of my friends want to teach English abroad, and that sounds like it could be cool, but it doesn’t seem like it would lead me anywhere. So, I just don’t know what to do, and I really need to start figuring it out now.
Now is definitely the time to be thinking about it (not May), so good for you for starting early. I have a few guiding principles for you. First, try to take a long view of your life. You will probably change jobs and careers several times. Don’t think that you must make the one right decision now and never deviate from that path. You’re not bound to any one path, unless you take on a lot of debt and need a high-paying job to pay it back. (I’m talking to you, law school.)
Second: Don’t take on debt for either of the things you mentioned. You seem lukewarm at best about those options. And more important, never having worked and paid bills, you don’t have a real sense of what repayment of loans of that size will mean for you, your finances and your life. Debt will narrow your options to a pinhole; now isn’t the time to box yourself into anything.
Third: Reshape your thinking about the paths open to you. Until this point in your life, your course has been clear: Finish high school, go to college, graduate. Now, though, there are a lot of options. And there’s no one clear or best path. There are, however, lots of people ready to tell you what they think you should do. What they’re really telling you, though, is what makes them comfortable or what they wish they could do/had done.
You are the only one who can really figure out what the best options are for you. You’ll need input and information from other people, but you’re the only person who can answer the questions about what interests you, where you want to live, how many hours you want to work and what kind of life you want to have.
Try to answer those questions, then look for work that seems to fit your answers. Start looking for that work in December, so you can have something lined up in May. Cast a wide net; applying and interviewing for jobs is good networking and professional development. Learn about the work that’s available, and choose something. Do that something for a year, and reevaluate. And remember: Graduate school is not the thing to do because you don’t know what else you would do. If you’re doing something just to do something, make it something that pays you, not the other way around.
Ghosts of Boyfriends Past
About five years ago, my boyfriend (of four years) and I broke up. We had been doing long-distance for most of the relationship (after college we moved to different places), and we just weren’t at the same point in our lives. To be honest, he was drinking a lot during that time and was maybe kind of depressed, because he didn’t know where his life was going. During the four years we were together, we broke up and got back together a million times. I always cared about him, but the relationship just wasn’t working. I tried to pull back so many times, but he held on pretty tightly. And, despite the relationship not being good, it was clearly hard for me to really let go and move on. But, about five years ago, we finally really separated and both kind of moved on.
Fast forward to now. He’s got his life together (he just finished med school) and seems much happier and healthier. He recently got in touch with me on Facebook, and I get the sense that he’s kind of putting out feelers to see if I’d be interested in rekindling our old relationship. I’d be lying if I said I never thought about him, but we’re still living in different places, and it was just so hard to get out of that relationship last time, I’m hesitant to try things again. Is it a huge mistake to restart something? Or a huge mistake not to?
I advise keeping your distance, LB. It took you months (years?) to extricate yourself last time. Stepping right back into that spider’s web doesn’t seem wise. Particularly since the relationship wasn’t working then. Why would it work now? Because medical residents have so much free time and energy? And freedom to relocate to be with their long-distance girlfriends? I don’t see how this guy fits into your current life. The idea of reconnecting after all this time is romantic, and exstalgia (thank you, reader, for that word) is a potent force, but I don’t foresee things working out differently this time.
There’s also the little matter of both of you being somewhat different people now. It sounds like he was in a pretty low place when you were together and maybe leaning on you a little bit. Now that he has his own life in order (which is great), things will be different. At the very least, you’d be getting to know each other again. If you can’t keep your distance, proceed with caution.
Speaking of Exes
You provided some more suggestions to describe an ex with whom you’re sill friends:
One brawny reader suggested ex-timate.
Someone else zeroed in on the way the physical part of a relationship tends to linger after a break-up with the phrase, dick in a box. It’s there when you need it; break glass in case of emergency.
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