Conflicted about the future

This soon-to-be college graduate knows what she wants but not how to get there.

Our elder helps her sort out the options and chart a course for her future.

Dear EWC:

I graduate from college in 2 weeks. I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I changed my major to liberal arts because I decided I don’t want to be a teacher. I want to work with people with special needs but not teaching in a school system. I feel like special ed teachers are so limited in how they can help a child.

I am an athlete and have worked with Special Olympics and other organizations that help people with special needs play sports. I have really enjoyed doing that. I however don’t think I can have a great career with that so I am stuck on what to do. I will probably need to do more schooling and I am okay with that. I just can’t decide on what I need to get a degree in. I feel like it is so hard to find what degree I would need to work with people with special needs but not getting a teaching degree.

I also have to move back home. I live in the middle of nowhere and don’t think there are many good job opportunities. My lease is up in June and I need to decide if I want to find a place to live where I live now. If I stay there I can try and find a good job to help me advance in working with people with special needs. However if I decided to move back home I will probably just need to get a job that will get me through the next few months till my lease is up. I would say this is what I think about most right now. I do like where I live now but I am just scared about having to pay a large rent by myself and finding a good enough job where I can do that. So do you have any advice on if I should take the chance and live in the area that I live in now or move back home and get my life in order before I need to pay for more things.

Folk replies:

I understand your hesitation and confusion. It’s scary to have to leave school and to be on your own, especially when you are unsure of what you want to do with your life. Under these circumstances, moving back home to give yourself more time to think about may seem very attractive. But the truth is: moving back to the middle of nowhere where there are very limited job opportunities won’t help you to figure things out. After all, you already had all the years you spent in college to do this, and it didn’t help. 

This is because people can’t figure out if they want to do something by imagining doing it; they have to actually try doing it instead. So, if you know you want to work with special needs people in some capacity, the best thing you can do is to get a job working with them where you live now. If you do this, you will meet other people with specialized skills who work with special needs. By asking them questions about their jobs, you will be able to figure out exactly what kind of an advanced degree to get to do what you want to do. With your background in athletics and your work with Special Olympics, you might want to consider a career as either a physical or occupational therapist. Physical therapists help improve movement and manage pain. They are an important part of preventive care, rehabilitation, and treatment for patients with chronic conditions. Occupational therapists help disabled patients develop and maintain the skills they need for daily living and working

You feel scared and uncertain. I get that. But you already know what you want to do. There’s no special, magical answer that’s going to come to you if you move home, get a boring job, and think about it more. If you can’t afford an apartment on your own, you could consider sharing it with a friend or roommate and splitting expenses. That said, if you need to save money for graduate school, living at home rent-free might be your best option. No matter what, just remember that you won’t get through uncertainty by sitting at home and worrying about the future. Instead, you must take your future into your own hands. So, make a decision about what you are going to do and start making things happen.



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