The path less chosen

“So what on earth are you going to do with your life?  Having recently graduated from TU Delft, there are loads of questions vying for attention in my cluttered head, but the most persistent seems to be this one.

Having a specific degree doesn’t really make things easier. Parents, of course, tend to miss the logic in this one: ‘You studied architecture, doesn’t that mean you’re going to be an architect?’ Well, no. Not exactly. The irrelevance of the A+B = C method seems obvious to me. I can be anything I want to be, damnit! (And yes, I’m acutely aware that this attitude sounds something like a three-year-old throwing a tantrum in the Albert Hein.)
But look, haven’t the most interesting people in history always done something other than the expected? Aren’t we all intrigued by those truck-drivers-turned-philosophers?  Those dancers who give up the ballet slippers to write an anthology of invertebrates? What’s not to love about these multi-faceted people? Who wants to gasp their last breath and boldly exclaim, ‘I sat behind a computer for 62 years!’
Now the time is coming to make some decisions, and while this may seem like the advent of the ‘quarter life crisis’, there’s really no reason to be alarmed. How few people ever really know what they want to be when they grow up? How boring would that be, anyway? It’s like choosing a partner in crime: sometimes you really like them, but you know in the back of your mind that someday you may have to bump them off so you can take the money and run. Self-preservation, my friends.
And yet this loyalty to one’s self, though admirable to a certain extent, can sometimes cloud our vision. In the worst case, we become 40-something alcoholics who play drums in a garage band and live with our parents. But this isn’t exactly the direction I was going in. All I’m saying is that we ought to be a bit more critical of the future.  We’re not roped into anything yet — in fact, you, me and the rest of the student body are probably now enjoying the climax of that elusive goal, freedom. For the rest of our lives, we will never again be able to say, on consecutive weekdays, ‘oh the hell with it, I’m sleeping in.’ Our opportunities for choice will never again be so great, and god knows our ability to drink copious amounts of alcohol (and enjoy the benefits of self-delusion that follow) will never again be so strong. 
And yet, while safely enjoying our many freedoms, we’re all using half our brains to try and work out the next step. For some people it’s clear, of course. Daddy wants you to take over the business, or maybe you were just getting a degree while you looked around for that rich doctor, and now the future is a gleaming house full of tiny people who look shockingly similar to you. These are worthy pursuits, surely, but for those of us who still rankle at the idea of making such a traditional step, something more…unexpected holds more appeal.
Why not spend the year after graduation picking oranges in Australia — let the sun prematurely age your skin while you frolic in the orchards with some lovely local. Or better yet, how about a sailing trip around the world? Fighting off Vietnamese pirates and catching your own dinner from the sea sounds like a good way to spend a year. Maybe you could make an income traveling around South America, teaching kids how to speak English, or learning Spanish from them. Or how about working as a guide in the Himalayas? There’s so many delicious opportunities just waiting out there, and so often we end up choosing the path laid out before us. No one really grows up thinking, ‘I hope I have a boring life.’ 
I’d like to suggest that there is a valid reason for terrible idioms like ‘she’s sowing her wild oats while she can’. Perhaps grandparents are in a better position to see things clearly than our busy parents. Yes, a stable income can do wonders for you, but if the inside is all screwed up, the most expensive coat in the world won’t be able to hide things. Maybe that generation that now insists on cavorting about in four-wheeled scooters can offer us some advice via lived experience. As my grandmother always says, ‘look them over good, lady; look them over good.'”

Dorothy Parker, MSc Architecture, is from the United States. Her next column will be published in Delta 35. She can be emailed at: onbezorgd@gmail.com

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