I had spent all day inside because I woke up feeling sick and wanted rest, but around 4 o’clock I was itching to go outside to feel Spring slowly seep back in. Most of the snow is finally gone; the small bits left are dirty enough to just be considered mud. The lakes are still frozen over and the grass around here looks appropriately smashed. I decided to take a quick walk around the block to just see, but then I put on Radiolab’s latest episode about (un)certainty. And I kept walking until it was over.
It was one of those episodes that on the surface had nothing to do with me. One man loses his faith in religion, another woman is a professional poker player, and another woman is the victim of brutal sexual assault. Going deeper though, of course they all relate to me: they all deal with the mindset of being, or feeling, certain with your own actions.
Sometimes it feels like you read, or listen, or watch something because you were Meant to, because something Bigger Than You pushed it onto your plate, because it’s what you needed to hear for whatever reason. I don’t actually believe that — what I actually believe, or I think I believe, because I struggle with even the concept and principle of belief, but that’s another story for another sentence-interrupting dash, is some sort of mixture of society following emotional trends and that we read ourselves in everything and that my friends share things on Facebook that speak to me because we’re often in the same situations — but it did feel like a very appropriate episode to listen to, about six weeks away from graduation.
Graduations are so ingrained in our collective celebrations partly because of how much choice, luck, and unknowns are embedded in them. I’m so happy to be done with the day-to-day school work and multiple jobs all over campus. I’m so sad that the group of friends that I finally found will be splitting up in six weeks. And I’m so scared of what’s ahead, or not ahead. A graduation always means the question of a job will come up: will it be “just a job”? Will it be a career? Will it be something that just postpones the need for “just a job” like more graduate school?
This is the first time in my life that I don’t have something prepared for the near future. After high school, there was Berkeley. After Berkeley, there was a planned year off of working and then graduate school. Even in-between semesters I usually had an idea of what I would do because I knew where I would work. The time closest to now was the three-month period of unemployment after finishing up my time at Berkeley … and really, three months of job applications ain’t bad for the economy of 2010 in the Bay Area.
Here are the things I feel certain about: death, taxes, my parents’ support & care, and my commitment to Derek (though even that took a while for me, but maybe that’s for a conversation over a cup of coffee). Here are the things I feel uncertain about: what I really want out of life, where I belong, what I’m good at, what I know, where I’ll be in six weeks, where I’ll be in a year, what our wedding will be like, who my friends will be, what our income will be like, where we’ll live after our lease runs out in August, and where we’ll end up living. There’s more but I’m probably uncertain about what that even is.
I thought that after my graduation, I’d really have no idea, and I’d look around and just see despair from all of my classmates because it would all take us 9 months to a year to find something. Summer looks a bit planned out, though, and I have a backup plan. Even more importantly, my friends are finding jobs. I have an interview coming up. Derek is trying to branch out, too, and hears good things. Derek and I were talking about how weird it is, how surreal it is, that any time now, something might come up that completely alters our path. We have these hazy ideas of what it might be like so we’re thankfully not in a state of panic until August, when our lease is up, but even that could easily change. We have places we’d ideally love to move to but overall, we know we have to be flexible now. It’s scary and it’s uncertain and we are completely aware of the fact that we have no idea what’s ahead.
I’m not about to say that this brings me no cause for alarm because I’ve figured out how to handle everything emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I definitely stay up too late thinking about budgets and income, and plans, and new ideas (this happened a lot at the end of Berkeley graduation; I could only think about opening up a stall at the farmer’s market featuring “tri-cakes” with different kinds of jam as toppings … now I mostly think of weird podcast ideas), and our future. I’m an American consumerist who would really, really love a better home with more natural light and clean corners. I think and worry about making new friends, about loving my new neighborhood, about genuinely wanting to be around co-workers. I worry about not getting offered anything. I worry about failure and being ashamed of myself for not getting an important enough job. I worry about my work not being “archive-y” enough because before this year, that’s what I mostly had imagined for myself. I think and worry about getting into the wrong first job, or accepting a job without knowing that a More Perfect job is around the corner and if only I had waited …
But it’s true, too, that I haven’t let the worrying take over my life. In the Radiolab episode, the poker player speaks to her fundamental strategy of embracing uncertainty. To listen to a conversation about just giving in and embracing it all made me feel so serene. I know nothing is certain, but this feels like one of those moments when I’m going to really learn how to take that leap of faith. Our lives aren’t certain, but mostly they aren’t static. Post-graduation doesn’t mean end-life. Marriage doesn’t mean settling. Holding a Master’s in Library and Information Science doesn’t even mean that I’ll be an archivist. I will have to choose a path soon, a path that I maybe didn’t intentionally carve out or one that I didn’t imagine, but the beauty of it is that if I don’t like it, I’m certain that I can choose again.