I have been in school for as long as I can remember. And now I will be graduating, and while it may not be for the last time, it will definitely be a few years before I go back.
So what now?
Personally, I think it’s a bit of an idiotic question. Are we really expected to know exactly what the rest of our life will entail? Common sense dictates that the answer is going to be “Get a job.” But I know people are asking more than just that when they pose that question. They want a map of your future, and let’s face it, dreams change. I know mine did. I started school in 2006 as a Natural Horsemanship major at the University of Montana Western. I graduated with a BA in English. I didn’t go to school for the hell of it, I went to school to help achieve my dreams. I wanted to work with horses for the rest of my life, and while I will always love horses, that dream faded and lost its novelty. Then I wanted to be a journalist, and then… Well, you get the point.
Now, when people ask me “What now?” it makes me think about the last six years of my life.
I’ll be honest; I’m one of those people who actually enjoys school. But just because something is enjoyable doesn’t mean it can’t force you to change. School forced me to grow up and to expand way beyond the tiny comfort zone I had as a freshman back in 2006. I figured out how to deal with roommates, appreciate jobs I loved, cope with jobs I hated, make friends, recognize the people who pretend to be a friend when they really aren’t, juggle bills, balance responsibilities…You get the point, I learned a lot. And not just about life. I learned a lot about myself. I like adventure, but on my terms, not anyone else’s. There are some things I think over and ponder to death before acting. Then there are some things that I am impetuous and impulsive and act too quickly on. I am an independent soul and have no problem being alone for extended periods of hermitage. But, I also like the option of calling a few people up and going for a drink to BS and catch up. I have a great amount of OCD potential that translate into me being an organized neat freak. I can ‘wing’ it if necessary, but I prefer to have an organized schedule. I enjoy crossing things off of a list and getting that sense of accomplishment the action provides. I learned to appreciate things within myself I didn’t realize I had possessed. I learned to recognize my faults and try to keep them in check. In short, I learned who I was.
Over the last seven years of classes and papers, tests and quizzes, activities and assignments I realized my true dream. I learned that I want nothing more than to write and explore for the rest of my life. I do not regret the last seven years of school or even the loans I accumulated during them. I would have never realized my dreams without those in between years college provided me with. The lack of regret doesn’t change the fact that with two degrees under my belt I am no closer to what I have ultimately decided I wanted to do.
I want to write, and I want to get it published, and I want that to me my day job. I have so many ideas for books in my head that the chapters from different concepts wage war in my gray matter and I have to consciously force them back into their filing cabinets. I want to write my father’s stories, which would fit right in with the outlaws from Sons of Anarchy and Justified. I want to write my memories of growing up in the 2nd largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states. And I want to see new places and have new adventures and share them with whoever wants to read them.
But now I’m graduating…and people keep asking me, “What now?” Now, I am going to get a job. I’m going to work my ass off, and pay off my loan debt. Then, I’m going to save some money and build my hidey-hole from the world in a place that I can hear the wind through the grass and sage and trees, where I can hear the water running over rocks, and see the sun rise and set. And I will write and explore to my heart’s content. And maybe I’ll even be one of those crazy professors in college that you can never forget because they are a bit loopy and a bit odd. But I’ll chase the dreams I want and allow them to change as I learn more about myself.
If there is one thing I have learned in the last seven years, it’s that nothing is attainable if you fail to try. Now, my dreams are beginning. Maybe I’ll achieve them and maybe I won’t, but at the very least I’ll enjoy the pursuit of them.