Columns / Discourse / April 13, 2011

Girl Meets World: And what are you doing next year?

What a dreaded question. Very few seniors I know seem to like answering this question, though it has become the new staple in small talk. Shouldn’t, by definition, “small” talk be concerned with seemingly unimportant things like today’s weather and your best guess for a date for Flunk Day? So why do people, especially peers who I haven’t spoken to in years, ask such a seemingly weighted question? The answer is simple: because they believe that your answer to their question is very telling. It seems that people think if they know what you are doing next year they will be able to assess your entire college career and how successful you are as a human being. Frankly, this is a vast oversimplification, underestimation and complete bullsh*t.

My mom has her Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education with a concentration in Audiological Disabilities, and she worked as a home investigator for the Department of Child and Family Services for a few years after college. My dad works at the national offices of a large phone company and has a degree in drawing from the Art Institute of Chicago. Harry S. Truman owned a store that sold silk shirts and other clothing before he became a Senator, Vice President and eventually President of the United States. Cindy Crawford studied chemical engineering at Northwestern University before dropping out to pursue modeling. Will Ferrell graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in sports information, and he took a job as a sportscaster on a weekly cable show before anyone knew his name. Mick Jagger used to be a porter in a mental hospital. Our own Chemistry Professor Thomas Clayton has a B.A. in English, and Education Professor Jason Helfer has a Master’s Degree in Music. Point being: why the hell are you even asking me what I’m doing next year? I could be taming lions in five years. I could be working on a cruise ship.

I’m under the impression that fellow students who are asking this question are not actually curious or interested in your life; they are asking this question merely for themselves. To take stock, see if they’re the only person who has no idea what the hell they’re doing with their life or up their ego a little bit more for being able to tell you they’re going to UCLA for med school while you go back to be a teller at your local hometown bank. If you’re actually curious about my personhood and life plan, I would much rather be asked and answer the question: “Where do you want to be, as a person, in a year”? The answer to this question, I think, is much more telling. What do you want to accomplish in the next year? What do you want to be able to count as your experiences? What do you want to learn? You’re going to forget the first name of half of the people you know at Knox in your first five years out of this place. What knowledge are you going to replace that newly available brain space with?

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