Feb 7, 2009

"Wed": I dont like asking "So what are you doing after college?"

They say that the only things you can count on in life are death and taxes. “They” possibly did not go to College. If they did, they would’ve realized that you can also count on all 89 of your friends and acquaintances asking you “So, do you know what you’re going to do after college?” It's a lock. What you wouldn’t guess however is that 45 of those friends immediately follow that question with an apology for asking such a “painful” and “old” question. Those apologies caught me off guard. You just showed interest in my life, don’t apologize for that. In fact I applaud you for asking that question, it’s a tough question to ask, and I don’t like asking it.

First of all the question is so risky. It’s somewhere between asking someone how their grandparents are doing and asking a women if she’s pregnant. You might be bringing up a touchy subject. You open yourself to the awkwardness that this person possibly has no plan after college. Then you have to desperately back pedal and try and reassure them that it’s normal not to have a clue about life, and that they’ll figure it out. Or maybe you feel so terrible about the position your question placed them in that you immediately start to try and help them out. You start asking “Well, what do you like to do?”, or maybe “You know I have a friend who works in so-and-so field, they really like it, you should look into that”. Those attempts are admirable, and definitely appreciated, however it doesn’t do much to change the level of awkwardness that the question has introduced into the conversation.

Personally I don’t really enjoy asking the question because it sometimes seems like I’m asking "so, now that the world has beat the ambition and wonder out of you, what kind of life are you going to settle for?". So many of my friends enjoy college so much that slapping them with the reality of their inevitable exit and entrance into “normal” life sometime seems cruel. Not only that but in the event I do ask even the best answers are rarely too encouraging. Kids grow up wanting to be Doctors, Astronauts, Professional Athletes, maybe even a Chef. Rarely does that come true, and hearing the answer to the “after college” question just reminds me of that sad truth every time.

So all that being said, I had a friend ask me this question the other night, followed by the apology, and then followed by something new. My friend said that it would be sad if no one asked what I had planned after college, implying that it would mean they didn’t care. So with that in mind, even though I don’t really like the awkwardness, and I’m not a fan of cold reminders of reality, I’m going to continue to ask that question. It’s going to be awkward, possibly painful. But caring about someone’s life is often awkward and painful. I’m going to try and remember that for the next 90 times I’m asked the “After” question and appreciate how someone could do something I don’t like doing.

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