Writer & Photographer Alyssa Mattei surveys 20+, 22-23 year olds, asking about their college process, majors, dream jobs, current living status, and future aspirations, to prove there is no one correct way or path to follow along life.
Written & Illustrated
by Alyssa Mattei
No one talks about life after graduation; after what society continually tells us is the “best four years of our lives” we are ceremoniously dumped into the world of adulthood, and left to flounder around in an unprepared attempt at the real world.
Post-grad life is tough, even if school wasn’t necessarily the best four years, and we are now free from the bonds of deadlines, exams, and class schedules, the adult world is no more forgiving. And it’s the point in our life, maybe for the first time, that we are handed full reins of our direction, with no clue how to drive. More confusing yet is that everyone seems to be going down different paths: grad school, Doctorate’s, job hunting, internships. It isn’t mapped out anymore.
And it’s isolating. Coming from a campus life, where you live close to your friends and see peers every day, to living back at your parents’ house. And if by some miracle you manage to line up schedules to get together with someone, you know you aren’t going to ask them how the job hunt is going; they get it enough from their parents, relatives, and family friends. Hanging out with like-minded millennials is the only reprieve we get from the incessant pressing questions. But in this way it isolates us more. We don’t know what our friends are struggling with. We don’t realise they relate to what we are going through: resumes continually being ignored by company after company, the discouragement of rejection, the loneliness and lack of social interaction, the isolation and dependence of living with parents. But the fact is we are all going through similar struggles; trying to figure out how to navigate this ocean called life when we are left at sea with a boat without a rudder.
So I took the hard part out of talking to your friends about how their lives are going, and summarized them into digestible tidbits; hoping the anecdotes with elucidate the struggle of twenty-something millennials. Some people know their path, others have deviated, some are still seeking to discover theirs. Maybe you’ll find someone to relate to, or maybe you’ll find a small thing to relate to in everyone’s story.
In this article I surveyed 20+, 22-23 year olds, asking about their college process, majors, dream jobs, current living status, and future aspirations, to prove there is no one correct way or path to follow along life.
Anastasia (who is actually 25, we don’t know how she got so old) looked for photography programs when picking schools. This is the major she declared and graduated with. She still aspires to be a photographer, and hopes to be able to travel as well. She currently lives at home. After graduation she spent several months working at an unrelated job before leaving to concentrate on her magazine and other creative endeavors. In five years she hopes to be getting paid to travel and take photos and videos.
Growing up, Batman thought she wanted to be a politician. Therefore when she began her college search she was looking at schools with rigorous pre-law programs. However, she later switched to pre-med after she found her law classes to be too boring. After graduating (one semester early) it took her two weeks to find a job in a field related to her major. She worked there for over a year and will be starting at a prestigious medical program in the fall. In five years she will probably still be studying for her MD/PhD but is hoping to look into starting up a small biotech company.
Bartleby has been catering her college and professional track to become a doctor, which she’s wanted to be since childhood. Although she added a major in school, and “went through a series of thoughts about [her] career” (after not getting into the med schools on her first try, and re-evaluating that avenue) she still “ended up at the same conclusion.” Since graduating she moved back in with her parents and has a temporary job working in a related field whilst she applies to medical programs for 2019. In five years she “would like to be in a residency program, living with my supportive significant other and an adorable dog in a cute little apartment caring for those in need.”
“It’s easy to feel lost, if you don’t know where you’re going.”
Medora never really gave much thought to what she wanted to be when she grew up. Although becoming a vet crossed her mind, it was never something she seriously considered. When picking out colleges she looked for places that had an environmental (policy, law, or science) program. Halfway through her freshman year she declared a major in environmental law, which coincided with an amazing professor and advisor. However, during her freshman year she realized her original impression of the school was not what she had expected, and admitted to herself that she “wasn’t happy or satisfied with the environment I had chosen and having found a very unique small town where I worked that summer, I decided to leave the school.” She is now living in a private apartment in a tiny mid-western town, where she has been consistently employed. Although she still doesn’t know exactly what she wants to do, her job experience has given her insight into the types of work that appeal to her, as well as her skills, in order to narrow down potential careers. While she is still interested in environmental law (and eventually would like to go back to school to get her degree), she realistically can’t see herself working in an office. She has no idea where she’ll be in five years; she’s just figuring out what to do as she goes.
Growing up Twig wanted to be a scientist and a mailman. By high school she was looking at universities with wildlife biology and ecology programs, and ended up declaring a major in ecology and evolutionary biology, after transferring from another local college her sophomore year. Her desired career path is somewhat related to her major, although her dream job is still changing as she figures out what she’s good at and what types of jobs she wants. Currently, she lives “no where and every where” (mostly out of her car), with no financial support from her parents. Instead she supports herself with multiple seasonal and short-term positions (as well as having worked a couple really terrible jobs) in the landscape, agricultural and ecological fields, which she believes are all working towards her dream jobs. Her current goal for the future is to start saving money for things she wants: like a puppy, and a garden with mushrooms. In five years she sees herself “under a shady tree in a dress drinking lemonade in my backyard somewhere that has a huge garden and lots of sunshine.”
As a kid, Hay wanted to become a doctor. After looking for programs in biology, she declared this as her major before switching to psychology. At one point she considered going into social work. After her third semester however, she decided not to continue her schooling at this time. While living with her parents, she held a full time retail job for several years, even gaining recognition from the company for an essay she wrote to attend the end of year meeting. However half a year later, her work ethic being taken advantage of without upward mobility, she resigned. After being unemployed for a month, she was recently hired to be an account manager. In five years she would like to be married, and starting a family, financially comfortable, and would like to have finished college.
Howl wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up, but once picking out colleges she was looking at programs in international business. I remember her once saying she couldn’t wait to have a job where she could have her own cubicle. Entering into school she declared a major in accounting, and by her senior year she had added a major in marketing and a minor in graphic design. Her current career path is slightly related to her major, although her dream job has changed greatly over time. She moved back home and it took her 6 months to find a job that is related to her majors after graduating. Her current job is not where she sees herself although she believes it seems like an ideal job for some people. In the future she would like to continue her education to get a Master’s/PhD in order to better understand what kind of jobs would be better suited for her interests. In five years time she’d like to be living in her own house with a partner, a dog, and a Master’s degree.
Something Cool has always wanted to be an actress, and has followed this dream throughout her college career, graduating with a fine arts degree in drama. After graduating she moved back home and has held a “string of unfulfilling minimum wage jobs” which related neither to her major nor her passions. Her thoughts of her dream job have sort of changed over time but in the future she hopes to be living in a Manhattan apartment with a beautiful girlfriend, and working in a “dark immersive theater piece that becomes wildly popular.” She has recently made her first step towards her career and dream by moving to New York City.
Sara once thought she would be a forensic scientist, looking for schools with solid science programs. She ended up declaring a very different major, recalling, “I didn’t think I was going into art history, I honestly just took a random art history class and thought, ‘I don’t hate this’ and that’s how I chose my major”. After graduating she held multiple residential internships before moving back in with her parents for several months. After a while job searching with no luck she realized she needed an adventure and moved from Canada to Texas, where she lived for a little while before moving back home. Recently she got a job as a bilingual (French and English) emergency services representative. In the future she hopes to be living abroad with some cats and a close circle of friends. Currently she wonders how many other post college kids are in the same place as her.
After moving on from an ephemeral, elementary school dream of becoming a ballerina, Miss Ginny changed her focus to teaching. She selected her university based on their math and education programs. Keeping her dream in mind, she never deviated and just graduated with her Master’s of Education. After applying to a bunch of jobs she was hired to teach middle school math (at her former school), starting this fall and plans to get a cat once she moves into a new apartment. In the future she thinks she might eventually want to get a PhD to work in government and education policy. She would also like to get married and have a family. But for now she’s content with not really knowing how things will turn out, in fact she thinks that’s pretty cool.
Twilight thought she wanted to be a veterinarian or a pharmacist as a kid. Once searching for colleges she was looking for programs in healthcare related fields. After enrolling she majored in speech pathology. Her dream job is sort of related to her major, however throughout her education and job search she has “changed from knowing what my ‘dream’ was, to having absolutely no idea what I want.” She currently lives at home with her parents, is unemployed and looking to applying to certification programs related to her degree. For the immediate future she hopes to gain employment, regardless of its relevance to her degree or ideal job. Five years from now she hopes to be living in her own house, with a newer car and a job that she wants to stay at long term. Her ultimate goal is to feel established and self-sufficient.
“Take your time, things will fall into place if you’ve laid the foundation of hard work.”
From a young age Pon has wanted to become a vet. She looked for animal science and pre-vet programs for her undergrad career, and graduated with a degree in animal science. Her dream job has not changed over the years and she is currently attending vet school. She is employed with jobs related to her major, and through her school program. In 5 years she hopes to be working as an equine vet in the New England area.
When she was younger, Marvel wanted to be a fashion designer or meteorologist. However once in high school she wasn’t as sure what she wanted to be, and didn’t look for particular programs when looking at colleges. By her sophomore year she ended up declaring a major in history with a minor in ancient history and film. Her dream job has changed over time, as she is always looking for new ways to combine her interests in history, film, and archaeology. She moved back in with her parents after graduation and it took her six months to find a full-time job, after she had held a few unpaid internships. She believes she’s on the right path to finding her dream job, and her future plans are to continue to work. In five years she would like to be living in apartment in Boston working as a videographer for documentaries. Really, she’ll go wherever life takes her, but preferably it is out of her parent’s house.
When Aces was younger, she thought she wanted to be a chiropractor, but when she started the college search she particularly looked for programs in psychology and dance. Once enrolled, she did not pursue her interest in psychology, however she declared a double major in dance and media studies. Her dream job has changed over time, and is somewhat related to her major. Since graduating, she has moved out of her parent’s house, and lives in an apartment independently with her cat. It took her about a month and a half to find a full-time job as a systems analyst trainer at a large sign company. She still pursues dance as an extracurricular and taught musical theater to children during the school year. In the future she would like to be still living comfortably with her cat, but would prefer to be closer to her family and the ocean. She adds that having a 9-5 job stinks, and that she misses summer vacation.
Kick Frog never really thought through what he wanted to be when he grew up, and with fairly standard majors, didn’t look for specific programs when looking at schools. In undergrad he switched majors multiple times, from history to applied math and economics, keeping history as a minor, as well as adding a music minor. After graduating with his Bachelor’s he got his Master’s in economics from the same program the year after. While his dream job has absolutely changed over the years, it is still somewhat related to his majors. Fairly shortly after receiving his Master’s he moved back home and worked at a semi- related, but non-ideal job. He is now an “unemployed and confused” political aspirant, and teaching himself instruments in the interim year between applying to schools for his doctorate. In five years he hopes to have “a PhD in economics, people are listening to my music and I am happy.”
As a kid Aperture, wanted to be a professional runner, and ended up looking at schools with exercise science programs. Once in college he switched from exercise science to philosophy and from philosophy to photography, while also transferring schools twice (moving to three different states in four semesters). He has continued this trend and since graduating he has lived in three different states, and now his own apartment and works as a freelance photographer and artist assistant. Recently, he received a grant for a photography project, which will allow him to take several road trips around the country. In the future he hopes to be a teacher and working as a photographer with his own apartment and working studio.
“I found that roles in the post grad were very diluted. You can fit many pieces, interests, and strengths into a role you wouldn’t typically expect to do certain things in.”
In high school, Flynn wanted to be a pediatrician, and was looking at schools with programs in biology. By her sophomore year she had switched tracks and ended up declaring her major in psychology. Her dream job is sort of related to her major, and has absolutely changed over the years. Since graduating she moved back in with her parents, and is currently unemployed despite consistently applying for jobs. Additionally she has been taking extra classes in business. Her future plans are to get a job, and in five years she hopes to be living by herself in an apartment in either Boston or New York.
Dragon graduated with an undergraduate degree in civil engineering, after looking at schools for this particular program, and declaring it as his major. His dream job hasn’t changed over time, and his career path is related to his major. He is currently in grad school but also technically employed at a job that took him “no time at all” to get. His future plans are to finish school and then… who knows?
As a kid Meesh wanted to be an artist, but diverged when she came to realize it was more of a hobby than a career for her. As she began looking at colleges, she looked specifically for nursing programs, a major which she declared, and got her degree in. Before even graduating she knew she had a job as a nurse. Despite sticking with this, she isn’t sure that nursing is her “dream job” but for now it’s something she enjoys, and will continue to roll with. Her current nursing job is keeping her active and challenging her to learn new things. She hopes this will help her in the future to do travel nursing so she can see the world and meet new people. Ideally her future will involve her moving out, building, and progressing her nursing career, and traveling around in, and outside of the U.S.
Rocco always knew he wanted to be an artist and in high school he looked at schools with programs in studio and dramatic arts. He combined both these interests in declaring a major in puppet arts. His dream job, although only somewhat related to his major, has not changed over time. He still lives at home but is employed by an art center, which he was hired at two weeks after his internship ended. It is related to his current dream job, which is to become an art handler. Additionally, he is working on researching and creating his own art exhibition revolving around black issues. In five years he hope to be financially stable, and living in California or outside the country.
“Take solace in your efforts and know that you are important even if a fairly uncaring world won’t act like it.”
Leon wanted to be a vet when she grew up. When she started looking at colleges she was loosely looking for programs in biology. However, later in her academic career she changed to a major in geology. Her desired career path is partially related to her major and her dream job has changed throughout her college and professional career. After a year after of living with her parents and working at a local therapeutic equestrian center, she was accepted to a Master’s degree program through a prestigious natural history museum. She is now a grad student, studenting, with the goal of being a teacher of earth science (and a dog owner) in the future.
As a kid Dingo dreamt of becoming a professional athlete, but by the time college rolled around he was looking for programs in engineering/applied mathematics. After swapping majors “like 4 times,” he ended up graduating with a degree in communications. He got a job directly related to his major within a couple months of graduating. After graduation he returned home, and now he and a roommate rent his house from his mother (whom, looking to downsize, moved out). He hopes his current company will pay for his Master’s degree and that he can use his experience to move towards another branch of the company to pursue his dream job: working for the sports broadcasting network of baseball teams. In five years time he hopes to have his Master’s, a house, a lot of money, and “a lot of great times with the homies.”
Unicorn Sparkle Magic wanted to be a farm owner when she grew up. When looking at colleges she looked for programs in biology and this is the major she declared and graduated with (one semester early). However, her desired career path is unrelated to her academic studies claiming there’s “no such thing as dreams in this scary world”. It took her a month to find an unrelated administrative job, she still lives with her parents, however she pays rent. She is looking for new jobs in recruiting on the west coast/California. In five years she hopes that she will not be living in a backyard tent, and in the backyard, and would like to be able to properly cook a chicken.
Whiplash used to want to be a scientist, but by high school was looking at engineering programs for college. Originally she declared a double major in electrical and computer engineering. However, after taking a term off of school, she returned and switched to a single major in electrical. After about 5 trimesters of college she moved back home, and got a waitressing job. She still lives with her parents, and has since worked at various agricultural jobs (farmer’s market, greenhouses) and now works a full time, “very monotonous and labor intensive” job at a dairy farm. Currently she’s looking for an apartment and a new job, but doesn’t have any long term plans. Although she has “literally no idea” where she’ll be in five years, she hopes she will be at a point where she has a more engaging job that pays enough for her to no longer be struggling with bills.
“If I could go back in time I would tell myself to not rush into anything and to allow myself to breathe for a minute. your life doesn’t have to be picture perfect the day after you graduate - experience as many new and different things as you can!”
Although we all face similar struggles, everyone’s story is unique. I remember the night before I had to send in my college choice. I was sitting at my kitchen table, crying for hours. I didn’t know what to do. I was so unsure of myself I ended up picking more on proximity to home and financial aid than anything else. I didn’t pick the right match for me, I transferred to a much larger university the following fall. Between that and studying abroad, I started at a new school every year for the first three out of my four years of college. But I don’t regret picking the “wrong” school my first go around: transferring allowed me to appreciate the small things about my new school, and expand my circle. The people I met my freshman year have survived the distance of my transfer tribulations and remain some of my best friends, meaning that I could never regret that choice I made.
Now, realising my RV journey is ending, that a new chapter (of employment, real world, and adulting) is about to start, is frankly terrifying. But so was picking schools, studying abroad, selling the house, graduating, and full-timing in an RV. Maybe life isn’t so much about rolling with the punches, but learning to incorporate them; being able to constantly adapt to circumstances, and having the courage to change. Choices are rarely permanent; don’t be afraid to make the wrong decision. Progress is never going to be a straight shot, so maybe it’s not about coloring in or outside the lines, it’s about drawing our own.