Attention College Grads — Stop Avoiding Risk
Walking the path between stability and uncertainty after college
I am 23-years-old. It’s been just over a year and a half since I graduated from college.
I’ve spent the previous 14 months in Asia, traveling and writing, attempting to stave off the all-too-common disquietude that plagues us after university ends.
Some of my friends found jobs right away. Some of my friends continued on to graduate school. Some of my friends moved back in with their parents. A few enlisted in the armed forces.
No matter the path that each of my friends either seized or fell into, rampant uncertainty was the default outlook on life. Even with a secure job and salary, I found myself echoing the very same questions as my graduating peers.What should I do with my life? What do I want to do with my life? How am I supposed to get my act together and start adulthood?
Most college graduates, including myself today, face uncertainty following graduation: a foreboding, chaotic array of unknown obstacles, opportunities, and missteps.
Such is the reality of being a college graduate: all the perks of a 21st-century, overpriced education strapped to an weighty sense of precariousness (not to mention those endemic student loans).
These uncertainties take up space in our head. They can instill a paralyzing fear and impotence to action.
This trepidation isn’t unwarranted of course. The future is necessarily an unknown landscape, but one nonetheless full of potential. The worry stems from the notion that this potential, however exciting, can skew in the wrong direction — that it could point downward rather than skyward in trajectory.
Moving forward across an indeterminate domain is an onus that rests upon the shoulders of all college-grads. Yet this shouldn’t provide the motivation or rationale to aim for security and risk-aversion.
There is an overarching dichotomy between the paths following graduation: overwhelming uncertainty contrasts with suffocating security.
Feelings of disquietude following college don’t go away with the guarantee of a job or housing or income — sometimes these prove even more inflammatory than a period of limbo or unemployment.
Too much security can feel restrictive, like a room without an exit that gets smaller and smaller around you. A comfortable, stable position earned immediately after graduation can leave one wondering about opportunities they may be abandoning.Is this what my life will remain as — forever? Is there more than this?
Paychecks can roll in and financial worries may diminish, but these do not always mitigate worry. While these inklings of hyper-secure placements differ from the disorienting feeling of uncertainty, they create obstacles of their own.
At 21-, 22-, 23-years-old, nobody wants to feel trapped. While being entirely unsure of a direction can feel mentally taxing, being bound at the wrists and ankles to a career or path is no cakewalk either.
Defined boundaries and a career path that is projected forward in decades rather than months or years may sound appealing to those looking in from the outside, though from the inside it can feel anything but liberating.
These stretches of preordained, predestined predictability don’t immediately invite happiness. Often, they could prove unsatisfactory, and leave one yearning for adventure. At the very least, too much security can leave a young person feeling as if their youth has been swiped away like a rug from underfoot, and this ambivalence may remain forever.
A college degree precedes two antithetical paths: vagueness, variability, and doubt; and certainty, restriction, and guarantee.
The question at hand is how can we navigate these tides, and which way should we drift towards?
Our answer may lie in how we frame risk.
As people age, they become more and more risk-averse. Security becomes not only more practical but necessary. People sign on for mortgages and start families. Spouses and children come into play. This...