What The Hell Am I Going To Do With My Life? [Confessions of a Twenty-Something]

I think I can honestly say that for years I never thought I was particularly good at anything. I mean, I can rap every lyric to “99 Problems” perfectly. I can curl my hair in under 10 minutes. I can make a mean grilled cheese. But all these things won’t help me get a job (and oh man, do I wish they did!). I’m not sure if I always felt unworthy because I really wasn’t good at anything in particular or because I just never found my passion or my niche. Throughout high school and most of college, I kind of just drifted along, wondering when I would come into my own. The thing is I never did anything proactive to try and figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I never got my ass in gear.

I sat back and watched as my friends pursued their dreams of being teachers and singers and big-time movie directors. I was so jealous of these young people who knew exactly what they wanted to do and were on the right track to getting there and doing it. I wasn’t jealous because they were on the road to success, but more so because they had a passion. They had a purpose.

I wanted my passion. I wanted my purpose. I just was too lazy to actually go out and find it. I didn’t stop to think about what I wanted or what skill I possessed that I could actually use later in life to make a living off of. What did I really love to do? I had no idea. I was majoring in English. I should clarify that I initially majored in English because I had no idea what else to major in. I didn’t want to be a teacher or a social worker or a businesswoman on Wall Street. So I majored in something that I thought I could get good grades in. I enjoyed reading in my spare time, and I thought that reading for homework would be somewhat enjoyable. When people asked me what I wanted to do with my English degree, and I responded with a mumbled, “I’m not sure yet.” I was usually met with blank stares and responses of confusion. “Well, if you’re not going to teach, what are you going to do?”

What the hell was I going to do? What do you do with a Bachelor’s degree in English? Did I major in something that is so completely useless I might as well just drop out now and file for unemployment? I spent a good amount of college pondering this. What was the right track for me? What did I want to do? Who did I want to be?

I knew at the end of the day, I just wanted to be me, but my problem was that I had no idea who “me” was. To be honest with you, part of me still doesn’t know who “me” is, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t progressed from being a floating ball of apathy and cluelessness into something a little more aware and “me-ish.”

About a year ago, I took a creative writing class that changed everything. Not only was my professor an insane ball of energy that made me excited to go to an 8 AM class (I know, right?), but the class made me come into my own in my writing. I had always excelled in English classes. I always assumed that was just because I was absolutely horrible at math, and the Universe owed me a little bit of balance. But as the semester went on, I noticed something—I loved to write. My professor pushed me to go outside my comfort zone and be honest with myself in my writing. I found myself scribbling outside of class—poetry, non-fiction, fiction, random thoughts—anything that kept my pencil moving and my creativity flowing. I couldn’t believe how much I loved to write. The power of writing helped me mend my often broken heart and ease my constant anxiety. I was so overwhelmed that I had found something so fun and enjoyable that I could also pursue as a career in the future. The thought thrilled me. I wasn’t clueless anymore. Slowly, I’m beginning to put the pieces of my life together. Sometimes, I lose some momentum or doubt myself, but at the end of the day, I still come back to writing as my one true love.

In our twenties, adults constantly ask us what we plan to do with our lives or what we’re studying and why we’re studying it. It’s not easy to look them in the eye and say, “Ya know, sir/mam, I have absolutely no clue.” The pressures we feel from our parents, peers, and society bear down and hold us hostage, forcing us to “find” something to do with ourselves. We’ve been told that we need to be productive members of society, or else we’re just part of the lazy youth living in Mom and Dad’s basement. It’s stressful to try and figure out what your passion is at such a young age because we are still young! It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to do or where you want to do it.  Just because I love to write doesn’t mean I’m determined to write the next Great American Novel. It’s just nice to know that there was a point to my choice of major.

I do not regret my decision to take this track, and I’m excited to see where it takes me. Not only has my passion for writing helped me get internships and jobs, but also it has helped me in my personal life. If something tragic happens, I know that I can take my pencil to the page and write it out.  It’s an outlet for when things get rough. It’s not exactly the same as having a therapist (because I have one of those too, let’s be real), but it’s something pretty close. It’s a comfort. It’s a passion. It’s home. And I hope you find your home too.

Katie is finishing up her undergrad at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She enjoys wasting hours on Facebook and tweeting things no one cares about. When asked the question, “Do you do marathons?” She promptly responds, “Of course! Which show?” Follow her @KatieGarrity! Or read her personal blog where she talks incessantly about Ryan Gosling and hummus here!



    1. thecollegenovelista says:

      As a fellow English major, I know exactly how you feel. Well done.

    2. AshleyRiser says:

      Such a great post. I graduated with a BA in English due to a love of writing, but have regretted my decision because I wish I had pursed a tech-related degree. It's definitely nice to read a post about someone happy with their English degree.

    3. EndlessJess says:

      Thank you so much for this post! I'm a senior in high school and it feels like all of my peers have specific schools and careers in mind while I still haven't found my passion. It's really nice to hear something other than I need to have my whole life planned by now.

    4. puravidastudent says:

      Seconded. The criticism from science and maths students that we English students get drives me mad! Although I do love my 9 hour timetable…

    5. andasfortoday says:

      Sums up well how I am feeling, why do we have to know what we want to do and where we want to go, lets just be happy in the present, the rest will follow. Really uplifting post, Thanks!

    6. Julia says:

      I love this post. For a long time, I shared your feelings… I mean, I always did pretend to have a purpose because there were things I were good in that I found somewhat interesting too, which were usually legal/criminological things… I loved crime fiction… and so when I started college, I enrolled as a pre-law because I have been blessed enough to be pretty good at anything I set out to do, but I did feel annoyed that I wasn't passionate about it like my fellow students, who were amazing human rights activists etc.. During some of my compulsory English classes I also had one of these inspiring teachers, and he encouraged me to do so much more than just law… and then half a year ago through my English teacher I met the one person who did something so utterly amazing (a mash-up of law and English) that I could not think but "I want to do that too!"… finding your passion is really very much a matter of coincidence, and when your passions aren't as mainstream as for instance teaching it just takes very long to find it. But you will find it eventually, and then instead of having to answer the questions of what you're going to do with "Well… I study law, so I'll be a lawyer, I guess" or "I'm an English major, I don't know yet" you'll be setting off on an hour-long description of every single detail that you love. It's just a matter of stumbling upon it, really.

    7. Kay says:

      Good post. It can be hard figuring out what to do with your life once you leave that comforting college bubble.

      I majored in a field I enjoyed, but ultimately realized that careers in that field were limited and not to my interest. Graduation was a bit of a rude awakening, and a big episode of "What's Next?"

      Then a friend gave me a wonderful piece of advice: Ask yourself where you want to be in five years.

      Five years is enough time to move somewhere else, to get documentation in order for overseas travel, to get another degree. If you set a goal to walk away with at the end of five years, you develop a new sense of purpose.

      I knew that, in five years, I wanted to have a career in healthcare. I researched careers, job shadowed a few to narrow it down, and applied to grad school. I know what I'm going to do.

    8. Sophia says:

      Often people forget that we can always change our mind or job position. A lot of the times people end up in a completely different field from what they were expecting, but I can definitely relate to the "what am I doing?" confusion.

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