Defining the Next Step

I am officially in my last month of college. As the weather warms and Union Square fills up with people who yearn for sunlight, I’ve come to reflect on the last four years of my life. While I have spent many hours thinking about my college experience this semester, the frequency of these thoughts has multiplied tenfold. At 23 years old, it feels as though something in my life is coming to an end. 

I’m trying to think of it less as something concrete and harsh and instead as something fresh and challenging… A new chapter, so to say. But that doesn’t feel quite accurate. We spend a large amount of our lives in academia; from when we first step out of our parent’s arms and onto the playground to when we walk across a grand stage to receive our diploma, we are in a state of learning. What comes after, if you don’t pursue grad school, is a different kind of life. I feel, to some unnerving degree, overwhelmed by the concept of a “career”… I am scared by the idea of taking my first few steps into an industry I’ve dreamt about since I was a child. 

Steps in the snow that caught my eye!

In past chapters, I’ve written about how intimidating it is to have a passion. This applies to having dreams as well. When you grow up dreaming of something, of working towards it, it can feel as though the moment you can start working in that dream will never come. Suddenly though, as you’re filling out graduation forms and job applications, it hits you. You realise that you’re done building your tools… Now, you have to use them. A lifetime of mounting pressure becomes real and you understand that you’re standing at the starting line of a career you’ve always wanted to pursue. 

This has, unfortunately, various detrimental effects on the psyche. It roots up points of uncertainty and self-doubt, preying on questions that grind at your mentality. It begins to make you wonder if this is what you want to do– if you’ve dedicated the last four years of your life to the right thing. 

What helps with this kind of wobbly footing? I’ve found myself searching through my own archives for solutions, for as often as these questions crop up, so do reminders of my love for literature. What I’ve come to realise is that I am not beholden to one single path. Just as I’ve explored and expanded my interests in school, I can do this again with my work. I’ve realised that this starting line isn’t for any kind of linear race; rather, it is simply a point of departure for a new adventure. It opens up my world to new opportunities, experiences, questions, ideas, and interests. Whatever I choose to do next is not something I am stuck with; instead, it is something I can learn from as I move through the world. 

Something else I’ve accepted is that this is not the end of my academic life– at least, not if I actively fight against it. I want to keep learning. Four years is not enough for me to feel adequately fulfilled by academia… But I realise that I don’t necessarily have to pursue grad school right away to continue my education. We are all humans who can choose to continue learning every day. We have an endless universe of knowledge right at our fingertips, not just via the internet but by the conversations we can cultivate in our lives. We can read novels, articles, and blogs. We can attend talks and plays and social events. We can meet people at book clubs or sign up for a class in something we’ve never tried before. The possibilities are endless… And so are our connections with other people. 

As we move through the world, pages of our individual stories get turned. What feels like the end is the start of something else. By expanding our view and access to the world, we expand our knowledge. Each step we take is a step toward a new experience… And perhaps new passions and dreams as well! 

By: Ehani Schneiderman

Ehani Schneiderman is a senior studying literature and anthropology at The New School. She hopes to connect with others through writing, poetry, and cultural exchange. When she isn’t nose deep in a book or word document, you can find her paddle boarding in a bay or scuba diving out at sea.

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