Dear adults, please stop asking us what we’re going to do with our lives.
The holiday season is approaching, and with it comes a plethora of eager adult relatives wanting to know what on Earth I’m going to do with my life.
I typically spend the few months preceding these family gatherings preparing my answer to this dreaded question. Nothing so vague that they’ll keep asking for more, but also nothing so specific that it’s a flat out lie. One year, I said I’d go into journalism; the next, law school.
To all those adults who keep asking younger people about their life plan—please stop.
I know you mean well. I know you’re trying to get to know us better, or make conversation, or make sure we’re not going to end up waiting tables for the rest of our lives. But in reality, the only thing this question does is cause our neurosis to kick in. This question makes us feel like we need to have every aspect of our future planned out already.
This is dangerous because when we feel insecure about not having a plan, we start making a plan that doesn’t align with our true passions or goals.
The truth is, we don’t need a specific life plan. Times are changing. Existing jobs will be replaced by machines. People make money off of Instagram now. Social media and new technologies are changing entrepreneurship.
My favorite example of this phenomenon is Rachel Brathen (commonly known as Yoga Girl). Listening to Brathen’s podcast “From the Heart: Conversations with Yoga Girl” opened my eyes to the possibilities that don’t require a specific plan.
Brathen’s podcast is inspiring in so many ways, especially in her sharing how she began and grew her many businesses. She never had a specific plan to become famous on social media, open her own yoga studio, or travel the world teaching. She just did yoga because she loved yoga. The time and energy she spent promoting herself and her yoga classes eventually paid off. She now has more than two million followers, a podcast, a non-profit, her own yoga studio, and many more noteworthy achievements. She didn’t need to go to business school. She didn’t need a specific plan.
The question, “What are you going to do with your life?” stifles creativity. Most of us will do many things with our lives. We will have experiences that completely change our paths. Maybe we’ll go to law school and become a lawyer and love it, or maybe we’ll wait tables while writing on the side and eventually publish a book. Maybe these experiences will lead us to something we can’t yet imagine from this point in time.
Once we stop focusing our time and energy on coming up with a specific life plan to appease the adults wondering what on Earth we’re going to do, we can direct this time and energy into cultivating our passions. We’ll begin to create more space for the things we cherish. We don’t need an exact plan. We can create our lives and careers as we go. Once we start believing this, we’ll open our eyes to the possibilities. We’ll take the chances the universe presents us with. And even if we can’t see exactly where these changes will take us, we can trust that we will end up where we need to be.
So adults: please stop asking us what we’re going to do with our lives.
Instead, ask us about our passions or about what we hope to do next. We don’t need to plan out our entire life right now. But we promise that whatever we end up doing will be amazing and something we care about deeply.
Please just give us the space to figure out what these things are.
Author: Natalie Kirkpatrick
Image: IMDB still
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Travis May