Opinion: Why bother explaining what you’re going to do with “that degree”?

By Sydney Bucholtz

Features Editor

If I’m even remotely around a couple seniors and one graduated person who wishes to probe about my post-grad prospects, I can’t help but notice this sort of recurring pattern in conversations. There’s a question about what someone’s studying, the student’s answer, and usually the responding comment goes one of three ways:

  1. “Oh, there’s good money in that,”
  2. “Right I can see you doing that,” or
  3. “Are you going to have that be your side hobby?”

Freshman year, I was a theatre major and the last question was a recurring one for me. Now, I tend to get more of the second one a bit more, being in journalism and psych, but what I’m wishing especially lately is that I didn’t have to listen to my friends, and honestly myself, gear what I’m saying toward the audience of askers, as much. Why is it so necessary that people who I see sometimes so infrequently feel that this is the optimum conversation topic, and honestly why do I give so much merit toward their approval for my life to make sense?

I’ve noticed another pattern too, though. At least my parents and that generation, I’ve found, have been pretty encouraging toward taking a career path that you have a set end result in. A path where the responding comment is usually a (1) or a (2), and where the end result makes sense. But what if the only satisfying thing about that tangible end result is how concrete it is?

For the longest time, I was happy to tell people I wanted to be a Chemical Engineer (a story for another time) because I loved the way that the end result sounded, and I loved not having to be a part of that conversation, where I felt like I had to explain myself.

But I’m starting to think that the people who ask us these questions don’t mean to be giving us second thoughts or making us insecure. It’s not that generation’s fault if they were taught to want that end goal, and I can only imagine where they learned it from. But our generation seems different, and that’s okay, too.

And I’m also starting to think that we don’t have to explain ourselves at all, really. I got used to it when I was young, but I’ve met a lot of people who don’t; and ask-ers honestly don’t pay those people a second thought when they don’t get every answer. Those people taught me that if you don’t feel the need to explain yourself, then not as many people will hold you to that standard either, and that the only people we owe explanation and understanding to is ourselves.

One of my friends is taking a year off, another wants to do theatre props things and also sociology things, and I’m going to grad school for a field that barely exists yet. But as long as it feels right, who can explain that feeling to other people as much as I know it within me? I’d be impressed if they could explain to the extent of my fullest truth, and still get that approval. But what’s more important? With those “right” feelings that are inspiring my choices for next year, I barely ask myself that question.




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