It’s a habit when you hear someone say that they are graduating to say, “oh wow! congrats! what are you going to do now?!”
I can’t fathom explaining to you how someone like me hates this question with a passion.
But alas, I'll try.
No, no, don’t get it wrong. Many graduates feel the same, but my reason is specific. A little background first: I come from a reasonably small town from a pretty tradition Mexican family with little, if any, money. I’ve never been ashamed of that - no money meant I had to learn work and that nothing was handed to me. I don’t like the word independent because it implies that I had no support group or that I was alone - which I never was despite what whiny, teen angst Rubi will tell you. I had a family that loved me, but love doesn’t pay for college and my bills unfortunately.
For the past four years, I’ve been learning how the real adult world works - learning what bills really mean and what happens when I don’t work 40 hours a week like I should. I won’t lie however and say that I’ve roughed it - because I haven’t. Growing up also taught me that I’m horrible with my money and make a lot of impulse buys all in the sake of making myself happier under the rule that “I work damn hard for my money - I deserve it.” However, now that I’m at this pivotal moment, people expect story book answers from me.
Instead of responding to people that I’ve gotten into this dream grad school program, or that I’ve accepted a job in my dream career where I’ll have a 401k and all that, or that I’ll be traveling the world on some bucket list adventure - I tell them the truth: that for the first time in 22 years I’m going to just work and relax and not think about anything else other than Rubi and what Rubi actually wants in life now. The judgement I’ve gotten back after responding each time is also predictable as a movie epiphany. It's as though I’ve let other people down by doing what I want right now, rather than what society thinks I should be doing.
My point is that it’d be easy to say I should quit my regular job right now and pursue something more - but that’s not a reality. I can’t do unpaid internships and being “in-between” jobs - I have real adult bills and real adult credit card payments from my attempts at trying to be a real adult. I only hate this question so, because I wish instead of a look of “oh poor you, you’ve failed - your future isn’t planned,” just one person would give me a “damn, you’ve worked hard, you deserve this time right now before you make some impulse decision and go into a program or career that you’ll be unhappy with in 5 years.”
As ugly as it sounds, money is important and right now I’m where I need to be. The after grad question irks me because those that don’t know me on a deeper level don’t understand it and those that don’t understand it throw judgement that I’d rather just not see.
Hug your parents the next time you can if they’ve supported you financially so that you can go out for the expensive grad programs and get that experience in those unpaid internships. They’ve helped you in the biggest ways. As for me, the clarity of an open schedule will help me find my place in the world soon and I'm not afraid of that as much as I once was. The side eye from my response to the after grad question will probably not go away, but I like to think of it as motivation to prove them wrong one day. Thanks world.