By Cazey Williams
Premiering this Wednesday night and lasting all through the holidays, brought to you by Your Family, the inevitable interrogation: “What are you doing with your life?” or the various other ways to phrase that prying query.
It’s open season for your relatives to find you at family dinners and ask about life. Oh, it seems so innocuous at first: “What classes are you taking?” “How’s that job?” And then: “So what do you want to do with that?” “Where are you going in life?”
Well, right now I’m headed for the eggnog – unless there’s some gin and tonic available, because I’m going to need something stronger to handle that question.
Since preschool we have been asked “What do you want to do?” And now that we’re twenty-somethings, the question still persists (*heavy sigh*) – and in so many other forms. People are no longer content to hear you want to be a fireman or a nurse – or, like I used to say, an Egyptologist. Sorry, guys, I don’t want to dust off pyramids anymore.
They want concrete, “realistic,” relevant answers. Like, what do you actually want to do? And not just what you want to do, but what are you doing. I imagine (read: hope) the inquiries will stop when I turn 30, but I think that’s false hope. The cross-examination only ceases once you fulfill first world society’s ideal of what is success: Steady job, permanent location, married, kids on the way. And if after achieving this, the variables fluctuate – say, you divorce or you quit your job to go do something else, God forbid – the grilling begins all over. I’ve seen it from afar: Suddenly your cousin is the condescending “So, Joe, now that you’re no longer as successful as me, what are you going to do about that?”
What Joe should say: “Sorry, my mouth is stuffed with turkey and sangria, so I can’t answer you.”
Senior year of college, the most contentious question to ask your peers was, “What are you doing after graduation?” Some people ask because they’re curious and have no judgment (ha! Everyone has judgment!), and some people want to know so they can compare life paths (“Mine puts me at $10K more than you”).
Millennials ducked that hurdle by assuring our collective selves that “it’s okay” not to know what you’re doing postgrad – until you’re a few years out. Like me now. But oh wait, I’m in grad school/have an internship/I must know what I’m doing.
WHERE DID THIS MYTH COME FROM?
Maybe, just maybe, I went to grad school to avoid answering the question of my life path. I got a BS in statistics, not in Life’s Purpose. And just because I’m in grad school for something super STEM-y does not mean I might not go become a New York columnist (which is better than a Minneapolis or LA columnist, obviously) or work with Ebola in Africa (which is what I would really love to do, do you hear that, Mom and Dad?). “So then why are you in grad school?” I don’t know!
But oh, if you don’t know about your career, we can change the subject. My aunt will ask if there’s anyone special in my life, and my mom will answer for me – and then she will add, “It’s because he doesn’t know how to compromise.” Well, eff you, too.
Finally, to shush everyone, I’ll admit, “I’m just working toward a place where one day I can make a pumpkin pie and not feel compelled to Instagram it to show that I’m an adult.”
However, I’m guessing they don’t make pumpkin pies in Africa. Sorry, everyone.