It’s a feeling I know very well. That familiar uncertainty. The enduring “What’s next?”. It has accompanied my life for years. And as my graduation comes closer the dreading, suppressed question gets louder every day. So, what’s next, Julika?
Honestly, I don’t know. I really don’t. The truth is: I will (presumably, hopefully) graduate in less than three months and I have no idea what’s next.
It’s not like I haven’t been there before: After graduating from high school, I didn’t have a clue either. I just decided to study my favorite subjects — English and art history. When I was through with my Bachelor’s I didn’t know what I wanted to do with that degree either. So I enrolled in a Master’s program with a focus on cultural history. I discovered my love for the history of religion in the Middle Ages and Middle High German literature. I learned extra languages, I read Brazilian literature during my semester abroad, and I even attended a programming class — but three years later I’m still clueless. Thirteen years in school and six years of studying at three different universities and I still don’t know what I want.
And slowly, I start to feel the pressure “to finally get my life together”. I will turn 26 in July. At this age, my mom was married and almost pregnant with her third daughter. But this life concept still seems like a universe away from my life’s reality. How could I be responsible for someone else’s life, when I can barely take over responsibility for my own future?
When I look around I see people who have their lives together. Most of my class mates from high school are “real grown-ups” by now. They actually care what day of the week it is, they have jobs, they pay taxes, some are married, a few already have children. The ones who graduated with the same Bachelor’s degree as I are working on their careers and are building fabulous lives for themselves. My grown-up friends have jobs, paychecks, apartments. They own cars, couches, and kitchenware. They are adapting more and more labels for themselves: “Home owner”, “wife”, “social worker”, “mother”, “teacher”. Many of these labels are fixed and unchangeable, they have committed to them long-term and for good. They are writing their lives’ stories with fast pace.
When I look at myself however, my life is defined by very few labels. I don’t own a lot of things, I’ve never had a real job, I’ve never made my tax computation. I have not committed to call a country, let alone a city, home. I have not committed to a man (legally that is), a career path, or a job.
Some may call me irresponsible, childish or unworldly, because I still haven’t made up my mind, because I still haven’t figured out what I want. Others may call me free, because I have uncountable possibilities: This time next year, I could live and work anywhere in the world.
I look at my life and it is like a book full of blank pages. I can tell stories, but my life’s story has yet to be written. I have no idea where my story is headed. I don’t know who else will be a protagonist in the future. Will my life’s story be a comedy? A romance? A drama? I don’t know. Will my life’s story really be the story of a traveling art historian? It might be, but I can’t promise it.
My perception of the future is half-afraid, half-excited. I like the thrill of uncertainty and unpredictability. But at the same time, I’m afraid of financial and personal rough patches, I’m incredibly scared of leaving too many people behind and ending up alone. But I don’t what know future has in store for me. And although other people sometimes can’t understand how I can handle so much instability, imagining my life as a book with blank pages is soothing. I can still search for the labels I want to define myself by. I have many empty pages to be filled with adventures, lessons, and inspiration. I don’t know what’s next. My life is an unwritten story. And the next chapter begins now.
Is your story written?