The hardest question

May 4, 2009 at 10:33 am 3 comments

“What’s next?” he asked.

“What’s next?” I repeated, dumbfounded.

“Yeah! What’s next?” he pushed.

I’d answered a lot of questions at the poster session. I may have tripped a little on one or two, but was relieved (and pleased) at how generally simple and easy it was to stand there for two hours and talk about my master’s project, to some who were simply curious and others who tried to challenge me. I was surprised, when one person walked up and said, “So, give me your spiel!” at how naturally the impromptu words came to me. It wasn’t normal.

What’s next?

It was the hardest question all day. In part, it was his intimidating enthusiasm for my work, his zeal for blogs, Twitter, Facebook — he gushed about the ways he, a professor, incorporates them all into his classes. 

“Well, I’ll keep writing the blog.” I hoped that was what he meant.

“Of course you will — this is great! But what’s next for you?”

I couldn’t answer, although it wasn’t really because I didn’t know, but perhaps it was more a fear of announcing plans. My life, in the last five years, has taken turns I didn’t expect. I’ve seen goals and plans cancelled or postponed, and others quietly slipping out of reach; I’ve had to endure the — what? pain? embarrassment? regret? — of having to explain to old friends why I haven’t done the things I was so excited about doing. Life just didn’t take me down that road, I’d say. And there’s some truth to that, but the larger truth is that I  didn’t take me down that road. When the time came, I couldn’t or wouldn’t or shouldn’t, and here I am: not unhappy — not unhappy at all — just unpredicted.

What’s next?

“I guess I’ll just keep working.” “What do you do?” “I’m a graphic designer.” “Oh! Self-employed?”

I wanted to close my eyes and vanish, to sink into a parallel life where I could answer, “Yes!” and I could say with confidence to an encouraging stranger that I know where I want to go and I’m heading there, that now I’m ready to do what I need to do, what I want to do.  I realized that getting my master’s degree — as great an accomplishment as it is — doesn’t really change my life as it is, except to give me more time to go to the gym and cook. It’s just a minor item in my grand scheme, I think. Whatever that is.

What’s next?

I couldn’t answer.


Entry filed under: Head & Heart. Tags: , , , .

Reverie Keith

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. onewandering  |  May 4, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Oh, this post makes me sad… I felt the same way when I graduated. *le sigh*

  • 2. curtis  |  May 6, 2009 at 6:48 am

    No one can answer that question and be happy about it unless they’ve won the lottery and no longer need to work. The word “work” cannot be anything good. If I “worked” for myself, I don’t even know if I would call it work. I’d call it something else to make it sound fun or enjoyable. But I get where you’re coming from with this post. It is annoying to not be living where you hoped you’d live, or doing the kind of work that you hoped you’d be doing. Welcome to SOMD. :-(

    • 3. Sarah  |  May 11, 2009 at 8:55 am

      I wonder why we, as a culture, place so much value on “work.” We are defined by our work, by what we “do” — not for leisure, but in pursuit of a living. If it can’t support us financially, it’s somehow irrelevant or less meaningful; so it makes sense that we’d naturally want to pursue work that’s fun or enjoyable, something we want to be defined by. Maybe it’s why so many people are unhappy with their jobs – ? Why can’t it be okay to just work a job and find meaningful happiness in other ways? Instead of “what do you do?” why don’t we ask each other “what makes you happy?”

      Instead of “work” you could call it “awesomeization.” :)


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