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“I go to seek a Great Perhaps” were allegedly the last words of François Rabelais, a major French Renaissance writer. In his book Looking for Alaska (great book), author John Green offers numerous interpretations of what that Perhaps might be.
At this time of year, I’m usually focusing on doing well for the semester, because, in January, that’s my priority. The problem is that January to February is when companies typically try to recruit for summer positions. Not only that, I’m in my fourth year of studies, and it’s time I start looking at next year and the Great Perhaps beyond my degree.
If I find employment, I figure that will be a nine-to-five miasma, after which I’ll head home and not do much of anything because I’ll be too tired.
If I don’t find employment, I figure that will be a 24-hour rollercoaster with peaks of anxiety and lows of apathy.
It’s pretty daunting to think of it as an endless set of tomorrows:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time…
– Macbeth, William Shakespeare
To avoid a macabre Macbethian take on the future, I think it’s important to break it down.
Breaking it down
I think that the best way to prepare for the Great Perhaps — in this context, what happens after I finish my degree — is to know what I want… and understand that “what I want” will change as I live and grow. We are constantly evolving as the events and people that surround us shape us, and I think that goals need to keep this fundamental elasticity of (dare I say it) ‘the human condition’ into account.
Work is going to be a part of our lives, whether as something we enjoy for itself or as a means to an end. If you manage to find a way around that, all the power to you. For the rest of us, I have two ruminations about What Comes Next:
1. You don’t have to stay the same. Don’t be afraid to keep moving and keep changing when you need to.
2. Balance what you want with what you need and have a rough map of how you might get there.
Generic? Maybe. But I think that when looking at any possibility it’s important to accept both the fluidity of the moment (rumination #1) and to appreciate the scope of the Big Picture (rumination #2).
You can’t plan for everything, not even if your post-university self has the same motivations and desires as your current self; so I think the best thing we can do for ourselves is to have a rough idea of what comes next and be able to adapt when the world, or ourselves, change.