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2012 Winter Issue 8 (March 2, 2012)

Aren’t we all lost? The back-up plan.

March 2, 2012
By Casey Markenson

Last Friday, Colette Meller ’12 asked me if I’ve been getting responses to my desperate pleas for “lost” stories. I told Colette what I’ve been telling everyone else: “Some,” I said, “mostly from people I know. Do you have a good one?” Without skipping a beat, Colette articulately launched into a detailed response.

“I feel like I’m lost right now,” she said, and went on to describe how our worlds have been scripted up until this year: after middle school was high school, then came college. During breaks, we’ve found seasonal jobs, and then after college – well, then what? Then, nothing; then, anything. There is nothing we’re “supposed” to do next.

While I’ve occasionally struggled with having such an inflexible life outline, I admit that having a predetermined schedule of sorts makes things less complicated. Unlike my older, wiser friends who opted for gap years after high school, I never seriously considered not getting a four year degree; now, I’m seriously considering not going to graduate school. This, I admit, is terrifying: grad school is the only thing I am adequately prepared to do.

In the fall, I thought about not applying to any jobs – I would just do cool things for a while, and eventually someone would pay me to do them. That worked out great until I finally admitted that I am not the kind of person who can pull that off. I need a plan, I thrive on having a plan, and not having the means to financially support my lack of plan was a large impediment to said nonexistent plan. Mostly, I plan so that I can later reject the plan, and then embrace the artificial spontaneity of opting for the back-up plan. While Plan A is excruciatingly micromanaged, Plan B’s fluidity is vital. Yet I can’t indulge in fully realizing Plan B, because to acknowledge it is an enormous, daunting risk.

For example, the plan was to major in Political Science, and now I am an English major; the plan was to study for the GREs last summer, and I trained for a half marathon instead; the plan was to get a Masters in Public Health someday, and now, all I want to do is study is narrative. Right now, next year’s plan involves a year long service corps, a prospect which I am genuinely excited and passionate about. But, of course, there’s still a back up plan. It’s top secret, though, because confessing it would reveal how lost I really am.

I don’t know what, or who, I want to be after I graduate. I’m as lost today as I was on the meandering streets of Santiago, as lost as I was the first time I ran in the arb. This time is different, though. This time, I am letting myself stay lost and get even more lost, because after Stevie P. hands me my diploma, there is nowhere I am supposed to go, no one I am supposed to be. I am 21 years old, and the only given for the next nine years is that I will flounder, wild and frantic, until I no longer need to pretend to know what I’m doing. I’ll get there when I get there.   

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