I’ve never struggled with talking about the future, but pretty recently, the “future” has become a rather abstract concept.
According to Urban Dictionary — a questionable source to rely on — I’m dealing with what appears to be a quarter-life crisis. I thought that the description was pretty accurate: The period of your life occurring in your twenties when you realize a quarter of your life is over and you feel lost and confused 23.5 hours out of a 24-hour day.
I fit most of the definition’s criteria. However, after much consideration, I’ve developed my own rule of thumb for determining whether or not some of my friends are feeling the same uncertainty as I am: If you still relate to Lorde’s album “Pure Heroine” or have it saved in your recent queue, congratulations, we’re all in the same boat.
It does feel scary getting old.
Just like many of my friends, the first 18 years of my life were on a rigid path, playing out as a clear sequence of events: 10 years of regular schooling; two years of the rollercoaster that was the International Baccalaureate, or IB, Diploma Programme; 13 passed exams and a barely-passing grade in IB chemistry. Then I came upon the dreaded question, “What are you going to major in?” Almost every university in Mexico asks its students to choose a definitive major from the moment you enroll as a freshman.
One week before the beginning of classes and on the last day of the enrollment period, I made the radical change of switching my major from journalism to economics. I definitely didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Nevertheless, I thought I had “cracked the code” and was now exempt for life from the major identity crisis of not knowing what to do with my life. I was wrong.
For some reason, professors think that asking their students the generic question of “where do you see yourself in five years” is an appropriate icebreaker. I’ve become acquainted with this question and have also prepared a rather universal answer. If I were feeling distinctively sarcastic that day, I’d answer, “I see myself being happy.” Most of the time though, my answer is, “I see myself graduating college.”
All throughout high school and my first eight semesters of college (since my major in Mexico was nine semesters long), I got away with the latter response. That was, until last February, when one of my current professors at UC Berkeley told me that my answer wasn’t valid because I’m one semester away from graduating.
It occurred to me that I never thought seriously about my future past college graduation. Sure, I’d assumed that at some point during my twenties, I’d apply to graduate school, make amends with my “half-Americanness” and move back to the United States so I could start organizing the mess that is my American citizenship paperwork. But I saw these events as some faraway entity, lightyears away from my current life.
For the sake of columnist-to-reader transparency, I’ll admit it: I’ve been spiraling for the last couple of weeks — and I’ve not been very good at it. It seems as if over the years, I’ve buried all of these “future” decisions in a closet where it all just kept piling up — and its lock broke the moment I stepped out of the plane at San Francisco International Airport. And now, I have to deal with the aftermath of it all.
Apparently, burying my anxieties doesn’t exempt me from existential crises after all.
Recently, one of my biggest epiphanies has been the newfound awareness that I don’t want to further pursue a professional career in economics. I don’t regret what I’ve studied for the past four years — I have even enjoyed it. However, I’ve also come to understand that being fairly decent at something does not mean it’s worth making a career out of it, especially if it’s something you’re not passionate about.
One way or another, I’ve always been drawn back to my first choice of journalism, which is arguably one of the most dangerous career paths in Mexico. Coming to grips with allowing myself to give journalism a fair shot made me question the entirety of the last four years.
Deep within my spiraling is the fact that I’m no longer able to compare my path and the choices I’m dealing with along with the decisions most of my friends are making on their own. It is as if the moment we cross the threshold of our twenties, there are no more instructions we’re set to follow. It continues to baffle me how I have some friends hosting baby showers, while other friends are still diving into their academic careers to find out what they want to pursue professionally (because we were all pretty oblivious the first time around).
I’m still reconciling with the unexpected fact that I’m finishing university with a different set of friends than when I started. This was a sad realization and the closest thing I’ve felt to heartbreak in a long time. Learning that people are not tied to a specific timeline is one of the fundamental lessons I’ve learned these past few months, and being away from home only reminded me more of lost friendships.
Can someone feel nostalgia for something that’s still happening?