Exactly one week after I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in English, I found myself seated in my mother’s favorite leather chair, wearing pajamas and an Assumption College t-shirt, perusing the world of Facebook. It was a Saturday night, I had been out of college for exactly seven days, and already I found myself…wandering.
Wandering straight to photos a friend of my mother had posted to her page. Photos of chipmunks. One of them was really, really cute and it was next to a flower. Excited, I called my mother over to the screen.
“Mom! Look at this! Look how cute!”
My mother crossed the living room and looked at the picture, her reaction to the chipmunk disappointingly underwhelming. She then turned her gaze on me and said, “Alexandra, in the grand scheme of things, what the #$%@ are you doing with your life?”
At the time, I was insulted. “Mom! I can’t believe you just said that to me! I’ve been out of school for a week. Give me a break.”
She didn’t say anything in return, but the expression on her face didn’t require words to make a point. She was watching me sit (in her chair, no less) in our living room on a weekend, 22 years old with a degree that cost thousands, and all I could seem to do was look at pictures of rodents on Facebook. Not even interesting rodents, like foreign ones you might find in Africa or China or something. A rodent that lives in scores in our backyard.
As my mother stared at me, I could see panic behind her eyes. My God, she was thinking. What has happened to my daughter, who at one point was a productive and active college student? Will she live here and inhabit my chair forever? Will she ever find a job? She did get a degree in English…oh Lord, we are never getting rid of her.
In hindsight, she was perhaps overreacting. I had only been out of school for one week, and don’t worry–at this point, I do not spend much time checking out the chipmunks on Facebook. But her so eloquently phrased question echoed in my mind for the entire summer, and continues to be something I reference when applying for jobs or thinking about the future.
What the @#$% are you doing with your life?
Well Mom, the answer is still the same as it was four months ago. I don’t know. Oddly, I am incredibly calm about this. Throughout school and, well, throughout my entire life, I have been a “big picture” person. Next year was always more important than right now. I am a planner and a color coder and an extreme (insane?) organizer. But post graduation, I have become less obsessed with tomorrow. In the grand scheme of things, I am now focused on the smaller scheme of things.
The last four months have surprised and enchanted me more than I expected, from spontaneously flying to my best friend to traveling through Eastern Europe to remembering what it is like to read a book that is not assigned. And guys–I like not being in college. I like not having a clue what the next six months will bring. I like working and I like writing and I like living at home where everything is familiar in a phase of life that, for once, came with no orientation or guidebook.
In the grand scheme of things, I have realized that I do know what I want–I’m just lacking the map of how to get there. But maps are made of up thousands of lines and dots and many colors (and a lot of potholes). I don’t have my map yet, but God has given me clues as to how to follow my inner compass. These clues are in the things that bring me peace and make me remember who I am. And right now, these are the only things I know:
I want to live in a city with a pulse that wakes me up.
I want to see the United States–all of it.
I want to have dogs. Big sloppy ones.
I need to have a road to run on.
I want to go in a shark cage and face a Great White.
I need to be writing (maybe the shark will inspire me).
And that’s all I’ve got. These are the things that I am one hundred percent sure of right now. So Mom, in the grand scheme of things, I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life. But don’t panic–someday, your leather chair will be yours again. It’s just that right now, I’m following a map that is really, really confusing. I keep taking side roads and back roads and roads that scratch the car (sorry, Dad).
Wandering is not such a bad thing.