The ideas expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The New Courier.

America: The Nation of the Antsy

By Julianna Speers
December 2, 2021

Have you ever been asked the question, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” or maybe, “Where did you go to school?” or the most common, “What do you do for a living?” If you have, you might know where I am going with this essay. These questions may spark an interesting conversation and pass the time, but they can also spark discomfort and annoyance.
As a dual-enrolled high schooler with a month to go before I turn eighteen, just about every day I get asked what grade I am in, where I go to school, and what I plan on doing to further educate myself once I am an adult. This may be a great way to get to know a person better and find out what their future could hold, but for my plans…let’s just say they aren’t going to hold somebody’s interest.
Some kids know from the day they can read and write that they want to be a doctor or go into the military, but for me, the clock has been ticking for seventeen years, and I still have no idea where to start in “the real world.” My hopes and dreams as a kid were to be Belle at Disney World or be a Weeki Wachee Mermaid at Florida Springs. Go ahead and laugh, but at seven years old I thought those would be the perfect jobs to have until I retired! The fact is, my future plans have changed constantly throughout my life. From fantastical characters to a marine biologist, to a sea turtle rehabilitator and environmental scientist, my mind has still not been made up. That is why it drives me crazy when people ask what I am going to be and say it in such a way that makes it seem like my time is up. I may decide down the road that being an English teacher is the best way to pay the rent and keep the lights on. Or perhaps a landscaper.
And that is okay.
Society has a difficult time accepting an uncertainty such as “I haven’t figured that out” as an answer for just about anything. Did you know that America seems to be the leading stickler for knowing your future on the day you become a legal adult? My family has many friends in Europe, and one day when we asked them, “Do you hear the question of ‘what do you do for a living’ often?” their response was along the lines of, “That seems to be an American thing. ‘What beautiful weather we are having, wouldn’t you agree?’ is a more common conversation starter. Around here, we just care how happy you are with your life.”
So, why is America so focused on decisiveness right out of high school instead of exploring the world and living your best life? To be honest, I have no clue. I tried cooking up some ideas, but none of them would have made logical sense to another human being once I typed them.
If you are like me and haven’t decided what to do after graduation, maybe put these on your to-do list:
— consider a gap year
— travel
— find a hobby that you love and could make money doing
— if that hobby isn’t going to pay well enough, plan on doing it every weekend and having a good paying job during the week
— stop and smell the roses
I’m not big on fancy quotes or words of wisdom, but I know that I would rather explore my options instead of jumping into a career I don’t enjoy and not be able to back out of it down the road, and you should have the freedom to do that too. After all, this is America: land of the free, home of the brave, and nation of the antsy.
*Antsy: agitated, impatient, or restless.