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“Help Me Solve My Flippin’ Quarter-Life Crisis!”

I am 25, married, and have no clue what I want to do with myself. I have my BA and no student loans. I am about to start a new job at a popular pancake chain (there’s really only one, ha!) and have been literally sick to my stomach at the prospect of starting this new job. I am leaving a job with horrible management but a lot of flexibility, and I am so scared that I am making a mistake and that taking this job is just agreeing that I’ll be in food service for the foreseeable future. The money is better at this new job and allows me to pay all of the bills and have some fun money left over.

I have my degree in psychology and have thought about getting my masters and maybe going into counseling, but I’m scared to pay for it and take out loans (my dad worked at my college so I did not have to pay, for which I am SO thankful, but I have no clue about how loans work and don’t want to take out loans if I’m not SURE I want to go back to school, or what I would do with my masters once I got it.) I am the primary earner, and my husband and I get our benefits through my job (not an option at his). We would not be able to support ourselves on just his current income. I tend to be a self-defeater, and the idea of taking the GRE scares me, and the idea of grad school just seems so overwhelming.

I worked at a huge coffee chain for four years in college and after college, and would LOVE to go back into management there–so much so that I check their job listings literally daily and have gone to multiple stores to talk to their managers about possible openings. I was given an open-ended job offer as a supervisor, but I’d make considerably less money. My husband thinks I am romanticizing the past and that just because being a barista was fun when I was 19 doesn’t mean I’ll want to manage there. He is very much encouraging the pancake job and is telling me that I am just being resistant to change.

I think I am just conflicted because taking this job is a reminder that I have no clue what I want to do with myself, and I thought I would have some answers by the time I was this age. My parents have both been in their careers their whole lives, so it’s hard for me to shake this idea that I get one career and I’ll do that forever. I feel like a failure who will be miserable serving pancakes forever. - Pancake Flipper

First off, if I make only one point clearly, let it be this: DO NOT go to grad school if you don’t absolutely know for sure what you want to do post-grad school and aren’t absolutely sure that an advanced degree/ further college education is necessary. I cannot stress this enough. Grad school is EXPENSIVE, and, while it may bring you a step closer to figuring out what you do or don’t want to do as a career, there are many more ways to get closer to figuring that out that won’t cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Take it from me — someone who went 50 grand into student loan debt for an MA she doesn’t use professionally — grad school is not the place to find yourself.

So, where IS the place to find yourself and figure out what kind of career is going to fulfill you? Well, the work force is, for one. Working a “real job” will give you real insight into what your skills are and what sort of tasks best utilize those skills. Rather than see your next job — whether it’s at the pancake restaurant or the coffee shop — as the rest of your life, think of it as a paid internship (one that gives you benefits, too). And if you look at it that way, take the job that you think will teach you the most and has the best potential for career growth. If, however, the lowest-paying job of the two doesn’t pay enough for you to make ends meet, that may not be a practical option, and you should discuss with your husband whether you can afford to tighten your purse strings and if making some sacrifices is worth the potential gains.

As for being 25 and not having everything figured out yet, to that I say: NO DUH. You’re 25! You’re not supposed to have everything figured out yet. You’re not even supposed to have most things figured out yet. That you’re even living somewhere other than a spare room in your parent’s home is a step further than a lot of people your age are. Give yourself a break. This is not the world your parents lived in when they were 25, so it’s unfair to compare where you are now to where they were then. We no longer live in a culture where people have one career their whole lives. Sure, some people live that way and bully for them, but, more often than not, it seems that people try various careers, especially as many jobs and industries shrink or even become obsolete as the needs of our world change. It’s not at all crazy to imagine you may have two or three or four careers over the span of your working life. In fact, that seems to be a hallmark of your generation, so you are not alone, you are not a failure, you are not crazy.

Whichever job you choose, you’re going to be okay. Everything is going to work out. You’re still going to come home to a husband who loves you and you’re still going to, hopefully, fill your free time with hobbies and passions that bring you joy. And along the way, you will learn what kind of work makes you feel most useful and brings you the biggest rewards, and eventually, if you’re smart and ambitious, you will figure out a way to get paid doing the kind of work you enjoy. This will be easier if you have a spouse who supports and encourages you, but it can certainly still happen even if you don’t.

My point is, don’t get too hung up on opportunities you think will only come around once. Don’t get so locked in to the idea that there’s one path for you and, if you miss the right turn, you’ll forever be off-course. The truth is there are many paths that can lead you to happiness and one missed turn may set you off-course for a little while, but it could very well be a detour full of scenery you would otherwise miss and experiences that may make you a better traveler in the long run.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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avatar Eagle Eye February 19, 2013, 9:16 am

Well, as the girlfriend of someone currently going through a quarter-life crisis for the past 6mos to 4yrs – I understand a bit about how you’re feeling. And since I think that my boyfriend is beginning to round the bend towards discovering what actually makes him tick – I’m almost in the situation to give advice.

Which is to read everything you can and try and do everything you can. Read journals, fiction, non-fiction, poetry – whatever, and try and find that ‘spark’ and then work on chasing down that spark. It will lead to somewhere.

Also, just try and do everything, say ‘yes’ to all opportunities, see where they lead, again, look for that ‘spark.’

Also, meditate on what makes you happy and what does not make you happy. When you talk to people, read about, hear about them, do their lives feel fulfilling? Are they doing something that would make you excited?

My boyfriend has literally hundreds of pages of handwritten notes detailing all of this, and while I don’t recommend that you be as obsessive as him, keep a journal to record your thoughts and feelings so that you don’t forget them.

Also, WWS said about the degree, an MA is expensive and time consuming – only do it if that’s what you decide is what you want to do. Graduate school is not college in that its not a good place to discover yourself.

Good luck!

avatar Trixy Minx February 19, 2013, 11:14 pm

How is your boyfriend doing eagle? Has he decided on what he wants to do?

Fabelle Fabelle February 19, 2013, 9:20 am

I really have no advice, because I’m also 25 & have…like…NOTHING figured out. Even though my situation is pretty different than this LW’s, I can very much relate to her sense of confusion & panic (“OMG gonna be doing this forever! I’m a failure! I thought things would be different!”)

Basically, thank you, Wendy. I just drank in everything you wrote & it was pretty comforting.

avatar ReginaRey February 19, 2013, 9:24 am

Wow, does this sound familiar! Pancake Flipper – Wendy is right. You are not a failure, you are not crazy, and it’s completely understandable that you don’t know exactly what your life purpose is at 25. Trust me when I say that, especially in my line of work, I’ve met TONS of 20-somethings who don’t know what they want to do with their lives.

But, it’s understandable that you’re stressed, and anxious and frustrated. Lack of clarity leads to a TON of indecision and confusion. It’s only natural. So, how do you get clarity? The first step is to do a little bit of a visioning exercise. What do you want your life to look like in five years, say? What are you doing? Where are you working? Where are you living? Think about and describe it to yourself in as much detail as you can.

And then, and this is the really important part: Ask yourself “How do I FEEL when I’m imagining my ideal life in five years?” Is it happy? Content? Satisfied? Excited? Inspired? Passionate? Once you’ve pinpointed your core desired FEELINGS, then ask yourself “What makes me feel like that right now?” What turns you on, what excites you, what makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? Then, start pursuing the things that make you feel just like that. Life is so much less about what we want to DO, and way more about how you want to FEEL while you’re doing it.

That’s the first step to figuring out what exactly you want to do with your life.

Nookie Nookie February 19, 2013, 10:23 am

Wow Regina, I’m copying that and doing some writing this afternoon I think! Great advice.

Skyblossom Skyblossom February 19, 2013, 9:26 am

I think almost everyone is nervous when starting a new job. It’s a fact of life. So why not give the new job a year and see what you think. Find out if you love it or hate it and why with the knowledge that you can move on if it isn’t a good fit and use it on a resume to make a jump to something you like better.

LK7889 LK7889 February 19, 2013, 9:27 am

I know so many people who went to graduate school just to flunk out or drop out and owe tons of money for the experience and still be no closer to “finding” themselves than they were before they went in. Wendy’s right – don’t go into graduate school just because you think you MIGHT want to go.

avatar artsygirl February 19, 2013, 10:15 am

I went to an expensive grad school in a program for the humanities and a number of people walked away from their degree because they couldn’t finish their masters thesis. The only thing they have to show for it is approx. $55,000 in debt.

othy othy February 19, 2013, 12:36 pm

Oh I understand. My Master’s program touted a 2 year timeline, but when I graduated 4 years after starting, I was the only one in my ‘class’ who had actually finished the degree. Luckily it was a state school, and I worked full time while going to class, so I wasn’t in debt. These are the things they never tell you about when you sign up for a program!

avatar MissyC February 19, 2013, 9:28 am

I absolutely agree with Wendy — if you aren’t absolutely positive about how you see yourself using a graduate degree, don’t do it! I just finished graduate school, in a field where not having a graduate degree severely limits your job opportunities and future growth so I knew it was needed, but I often questioned if it was the right choice for me because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I was finished. (Granted, I’m still not but I’ve got a new job and I’m using that as an opportunity to see if that’s a career I’m interested in.)

It’s difficult to know, at 25, what you want your job to look like for the next 40-ish years. It’s ok if that changes a couple of times! Don’t be so hard on yourself that you don’t allow yourself to look at what brings you joy and excitement in a job. It sounds like you put a lot of pressure on yourself, both by comparing your situation to your parents and also feeling pressure to be the income and benefit provider to you and your husband. Hopefully you can see this job as an opportunity to try something new and not as a place you have to stay in forever.

katie katie February 19, 2013, 9:32 am

oh, LW, i too totally feel your pain, specifically about food service. seriously, fuck food service. i am in my second year of being out of it, and i even went to school specifically FOR food! i have found a great job, that i love a lot, that is related to food but completely NOT food service, and its great… however, my boyfriend is still a chef, and so i still have to deal with the bullshit it entails. so i feel your pain.

i think that all it comes down to is not settling with your life. and that doesnt mean that you dont start this job, enjoy it, and excel at it- it means that you dont give up any hopes and dreams for betterment in the future and just resign yourself to do this job for the rest of your life. i have met those people, LW… have you? i never encountered them in my coffee shop jobs, but i (and my boyfriend) absolutely encountered them in country clubs and hotels… the lifetime-ers. the ones who had been doing the exact same job, for the exact same money, longer then you and i have been alive. they are bitter, jaded, unhappy, unfulfilled, and think that they know everything. so thats my only advice- dont become a lifetime-er. even if you do end up working in the food service industry for your lifetime, dont become one of those life time-ers.

also, seriously wendy- you continue to read my mind. thank you for your response. i hate my life today, and i feel a little better now.

katie katie February 19, 2013, 9:37 am

oh, also- in my life, i find that having money/benefits far far outweighs any other bad thing. being stable financially to me is so important. and, ideally, that happens somewhere you enjoy working…. but you havent even started this new gig! you dont even know if you like it or not. but just the fact that it will bring you financial stability (complete with fun money- never ignore fun money!) should give it some good weight. who knows- maybe you will love it, have more money, good benefits, and itll be a great fit! and if it doesnt work out- your not chained there for life. why not give it a try? what have you got to lose?

also, i dont know if this is an option for you, but when i worked at a coffee shop and i got my new job, i actually kept working at the coffee shop on sundays. i loved it, i totally know why you love being a barista. its awesome! i wish i still worked there sometimes… i had so much fun there. so maybe you could keep barista-ing somewhere once a week, or even volunteer at a church that has a coffee shop or something, and you could keep that as a hobby you potentially get paid for!

avatar kerrycontrary February 19, 2013, 9:42 am

Agree with the money thing. I like my job, a lot. But it doesn’t bring me all of my fulfillment. If I could, I would exercise, eat amazing food, and play with puppies all the time. But I work to live, not live to work.

Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 12:11 pm

I’m glad you said that because I tell my best friends that my ideal job is playing with puppies/kittens all day with a lot of food breaks. Since this isn’t realistic for me, I instead have my day job where I’m honestly happy enough, get paid steadily (modestly, but that’s okay), and have good benefits. And in my free time I volunteer at the humane society/watch YouTube videos of cute baby animals. Win-win in my book.

katie katie February 19, 2013, 12:31 pm

“my ideal job is playing with puppies/kittens all day with a lot of food breaks”

we should be life twins. that sounds amazing.

avatar painted_lady February 19, 2013, 8:37 pm

Can we all please do this? There should be a puppy/kitten retreat and spa. It would be the best vacation ever.

avatar quixoticbeatnik February 19, 2013, 8:38 pm

OMG, totally agree. That would be the bomb.

avatar Trixy Minx February 19, 2013, 11:38 pm

I forgot what the link was but animal planet had a live streaming kitty cam :)

avatar kerrycontrary February 19, 2013, 9:41 am

WWS. I don’t have much to add. I went to graduate school for a Masters I needed, and I still hate the debt that I have because of it! I love my career and my job, but debt totally sucks. Just keep doing SOMETHING until you figure out what you want to do. One thing I can add, is that if you get into a large-ish corporation at an entry level position (think customer service, some admin positions, etc…) you have many opportunities for career advancement in various fields. People in my company move around all the time. From sales, to marketing, to graphic design, it only matters that you are already IN the company and you have a reputation for good work. So that could be an option for helping you figure out what you want to do.

avatar Christy February 19, 2013, 10:43 am

The government can be like this too! It’s not as flexible as a corporation, but you can definitely move between or within agencies.

avatar kerrycontrary February 19, 2013, 10:50 am

Good point!

avatar Anna February 19, 2013, 11:01 am

I would suggest researching the company before banking on internal promotions. Find out if they have high turnover and if they typically promote from within. It makes sense but not all companies do that. My employer, for example, does not allow senior customer service reps to get promoted to other departments. Sure, on paper they allow it but as soon as one of us applies for a better job we get called into a meeting and given a verbal or written warning for some bogus thing they made up (because that temporarily disqualifies you to receive internal promotions). I’ve confirmed this with many sources, including the hiring managers in other departments that I’ve interviewed with. They do it because turnover is so high that they would be utterly screwed if they were left with just their small team of new hires that haven’t quit yet. Any time they need a new supervisory position filled, they hire someone from outside who has never even taken a call and doesn’t know the details of our products. Out of 5 supervisors in my department, only 1 has actually been promoted from the ground up. Anyone who knows me on FB can see the name of the company I work for and be warned to avoid it. I’m stoked that I’m quitting very soon.

avatar kerrycontrary February 19, 2013, 11:17 am

Ugh that sucks!! Like hardcore! Our customer service reps usually work in the department for a year and then move onto a bigger and better job. We prefer to hire from within. Best of luck in your new job endeavors!

othy othy February 19, 2013, 12:39 pm

Maybe turnover is so high because there is no room for professional growth?

Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 9:41 am

Regarding getting your masters — I agree with Wendy. There are other ways to finance higher education besides loans. I went to law school without knowing if it was THE thing for me and I’m pretty open about that. I had enough interest to go, and it turned out to not be for me. The only reason that wasn’t a HUGE, Life Ruining mistake is because I had a full-tuition scholarship. I came out the other end with loans (from living expenses from college and law school), so I did/do have some debt, but I’m not absolutely drowning in it like many people in the field. That said, three years was a lot of time to spend for a license I don’t use even if it didn’t necessarily cost me 6-figures. I think the only reason I’d encourage you to go to grad school is if you can get excellent funding and the program isn’t longer than a year of your life. Trust me — being 24 and realizing at graduation that you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything and that you’re no better off than you were at 21 isn’t a great feeling!

I’m 26. I’m not much older than you are. I still don’t have everything figured out. I understand it’s frustrating, but I think Wendy is right that you should look at all opportunities as ways to figure out what you’re good at and what you like. About a year ago I started working as a temp in an industry I am excited about. Temping turned into a full-time entry-level gig. It was unexpected, but I guess my enthusiasm showed. Is this my dream job? No. I’m using it to find my niche, strengths, and weaknesses. Some days, I love it. Some days, I remind myself it’s just the first *real* opportunity I’ve had to figure myself out in this field.

Best advice I think I can give: try not to compare yourself to anyone else. Not another generation, not your peers, not your friends. I don’t think it’s helpful because everyone walks their own path in life and needs to figure out what works for them. One of my best friends/roommates from college is now a finance manager for a HUGE company. She’s really, REALLY successful while I’m still, in many ways, just starting out. If I stop to think too hard about why I’m not doing EXACTLY as well as she is, I do start to feel down about myself. So I don’t think about and remind myself we’re different people, with different interests, in different fields. That’s all there is to it. I’d encourage you to do the same when you start comparing yourself to others.

I was a barista for 4 years while in college (woo! Starbucks! Green Apron Behaviors!). I loved it. I actually learned a lot in that job. This isn’t really relevant, but I wanted to share anyway because I truly did love that job! Haha.

katie katie February 19, 2013, 9:55 am

baristas unite!! haha

Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 9:56 am

I really loved being a barista and actually miss making espresso drinks!!! It was like creating a little masterpiece each and every time. Haha.

katie katie February 19, 2013, 10:01 am

i really miss making my own drinks. i have never had a drink made the way i used to do, no matter what i tell them.. lol

and of course, i dont have multiple-thousand dollar espresso machines at my house, or id just do that and be fine, lol

avatar lets_be_honest February 19, 2013, 10:08 am

espresso martinis, also mmm.

katie katie February 19, 2013, 10:10 am

seriously, espresso anything is amazing.

im starting to hate my stupid k-cup and whole milk coffees in the morning…. ugh

avatar quixoticbeatnik February 19, 2013, 11:38 am

I was a barista for several years too! It was a fun job, I met a lot of really good friends there. The customers could be really, really annoying though. But making different drinks was fun! Did y’all ever try the undertow? It’s two shots of expresso with vanilla and steamed half and half. It’s definitely a shot of energy.

katie katie February 19, 2013, 12:58 pm

i only ever use half and half for steaming…. the foam is like whipped cream, its like an orgasm of coffee in your mouth.

avatar MissyC February 19, 2013, 10:12 am

The first time I got a drink with a leaf or other design on the top I was stunned! It totally made my day. I felt like a kid in a candy store! I ordered nothing else for probably the next month. Now I drink black coffee which isn’t as fun-looking in a cup.

avatar jottino February 19, 2013, 9:48 am

I changed my major at 25, because I only discovered the subject I loved among classes (and a major) I despised. Which I was failing. I graduated with honors two years later. Failed at finding a steady job. Now, rounding the corner to 30, I am in my first year of grad school (in said major). And I’m happy.

Many times in the past 5 years, I thought I was failing & a loser & forever doomed. But I’m not! It’s a process. This is what’s working for me. It’s definitely not “ideal,” or “normal,” but it works. You have to find what works for you & makes YOU happy. You’ll drive yourself crazy comparing your milestones to others’. I found a lot of clarity by giving myself some options. “Ok, in 5 years, I would like a job … or if not, to be on the path to PhD. Or teaching. I would be happy doing any of those things.” And from that, I figured out what I had to do to get me moving toward those goals. Every step might not be in a straight line … some are diagonal, some are parallel … but always moving forward.

And talk to other people! Your husband, your friends, your parents. Whenever I’m feeling crappy, or unsure, or like a failure, my boyfriend is able to remind me about the fire in my eyes when I talk about my career. How interested I am in research, or describing a certain process, or whatever. I get excited & passionate. Find THAT.
_____________
PS: I chose the same career as both of my parents. They were married long before my age, & they’ve both been working in this field for over 35 years. So I know how that feels. It’s a different world now, unfortunately.

thewriteway thewriteway February 19, 2013, 9:55 am

Everyone covered what I wanted to say about grad school. I was considering going for a little bit, even though it wasn’t necessary for me, but once I realized how much money I would be throwing away and what I could be doing instead, I backed off the idea. You’d probably get a better idea of things volunteering in your desired field or making some contacts and talking to them about their background/work experience. Even reading books about what your chosen path would help as a supplement.

Also, I was going through the quarterlife crisis thing not that long ago. However, then about two months back, I got promoted at my current job, and it’s brought me more financial stability and more fulfillment because my responsibilities increased and I am challenged every day. I mean, I wish I didn’t have self-employment taxes because I am a contractor, but knowing that I can put a little extra toward my bills is a huge comfort. I’m also considering a side job as a Zumba teacher (I need to get licensed first) because it clicked in me that I’ve always liked to help people and be out in the community, so this is a great way to do it.

Good luck!

avatar painted_lady February 19, 2013, 9:59 am

Oh, Pancake Flipper, do I hear you. Look, I am thirty, and I started the most recent incarnation of my career three years ago. Since undergrad, I have had three careers, or attempted three of them. That’s not counting the make-ends-meet temp jobs or the six shitty months I spent working in construction sites as a faux finish painter. I am done assuming that what I do now will be the thing I do forever – everytime I’ve thought so, I have been so wrong. My boyfriend and I have even discussed at some point my going back to school and getting a PhD in art history.

There’s no shame in flipping pancakes – actually, nothing else, I bet it’s awesome people-watching. You’re making enough money to live on, and you’ve got a job with health insurance. That’s a hell of a lot more than I had at 25. And you didn’t say, but what does your husband do? Maybe you felt like it wasn’t pertinent, I’m just curious why he can’t also seek employment that would contribute to the household. Maybe he’s a student, maybe he’s incapable of working full-time, I’m just curious because he seems to have an awful lot of say in what you do, and if he’s not doing the same thing himself, that seems unfair.

TheLadyE Elisse February 19, 2013, 11:53 pm

Exactly what you said. I’m 30 too, and I have a prestigious Master’s degree in a very selective field that I thought I loved…until I went to school for it and found that I didn’t actually want to do it. Since then, in the past five years, I’ve had nine jobs. 9. I’m now a business-to-business telemarketer. At 30 with an advanced degree.

A job with health insurance is a hell of a lot more than I had at 25, too. I say take the job, see how you like it, and go from there. You’ve got so much time. *I* have so much time, too. Take it and see where it goes, and learn from it, and go from there. In this economy, you’re in a privileged position and one for which you should be pretty grateful.

avatar lets_be_honest February 19, 2013, 10:02 am

Those cinnabon pancakes at Ihop at the bee’s knees. Mmm.

Wws, which really felt like a nice, warm hug when I read it.

beelzebarb beelzebarb February 19, 2013, 10:05 am

I can’t add much except to say I’m 31 and I just figured out what I want to be when I grow up. You’ll figure it out too and from it sounds like, it won’t take you as long as it took me.

avatar AmyP February 19, 2013, 10:07 am

How about doing both the pancake house job and getting a coffee job and seeing if you still like the coffee job? I hear no passion in your letter for psychology, but I hear a lot of passion for food service. Don’t be embarrassed–people have to eat.

My advice to you would be:

1. Take all the business and accounting classes available at your community college.

2. Figure out what working your way up means in your industry. Study your business and think about becoming a franchisee.

3. Make money and save a lot of it so that you’ll have resources to buy a franchise or start a business.

4. Have fun!

I think you’re going to do well.

avatar rachel February 19, 2013, 10:16 am

Geez, I’m 28 and have a PhD and I still don’t feel like I really know what I’m doing with my life.

One thing that actually has helped me to calm down is listening to the stories of people who have come before me. Everyone thinks you just finish college and work somewhere for 40 years, but that’s often not the case. Finding the career you belong in can be a long journey, you might as well try to enjoy each step along the way.

Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 10:42 am

I’ll second this. I’m one of exactly two 20-somethings in my department. Everyone else is a bit older (30s through 50s) and one thing I’ve noticed is that very few people seem to take a linear path from Life/Career Point A to Life/Career Points B (and C, D, E, and beyond). I work in an editorial department and we have people who were started in journalism, marketing, human resources, retail, law (me!), etc. One woman who is no longer here made me feel better by telling me about her 20s. Her exact words were, “I had terrible jobs and got paid pennies.” On that note, it may help to talk to people who are doing what you current think might make you happy and see how life brought them to where they are.

mandalee mandalee February 19, 2013, 10:18 am

LW, I, and plenty of other 20-something and probably a lot of 30-somethings can identify with where you are now. My parents and a lot of my friends and my husband seemed to have things figured out early on too. So, being a former Type-A overachiever, I too struggle with not knowing where I am going in life. I started out in a crappy marketing job,applied to grad school but didn’t get enough scholarship money to enroll, quit said job, went and started nannying, and after going back for a few classes on one career path, decided I want to go into nursing. It rattles me that I’m married and 26 and should have everything figured out at this point, but I’m starting to accept that I don’t. I

I say take the pancake job, get the money and benefits, and take your time figuring things out. You will everything get there! Don’t feel any pressure to rush into grad school, especially if it’s not necessary for your career path. I feel like a lot of people think grad school is the next step in “look at me I’ve figured things out”, but it’s a huge investment and is often largely unfunded. You are blessed not to have any undergrad loans, don’t take on grad loans unless you’re SURE. By sure, I mean researched and talked to graduates of a grad program you’re interested in, not the advisers in these programs. They are very nice people, but they are the kings of positive spin.

I’ve had plenty of friends that rushed into liberal arts grad programs and are nannying right alongside me at the moment because their degree didn’t give them any competitive edge and they’re out fighting for jobs against people with the same BAs they had before they went to school.

Take your time, figure things out, and work in this job until something else clicks.

avatar Addie Pray February 19, 2013, 10:26 am

Hey, Pankcake Flipper, I agree with others – it’s a waste to go to grad school … if you don’t want or need to go to grad school. But sometimes you can’t really know until it’s right for you until you jump in! … Not encouraging you to jump in right now, but don’t expect to know anything with certainty until you try it.

You mention that you have “no clue about how loans work” – go ask about loans! There is so much info out there on how loans work and what kind of loans you may qualify for and all that jazz. You also say “the idea of taking the GRE scares me,” but have you taken practice exams online? There are so many little things you can/should do before you go from where you are now (figuring out what you want to do) to taking the GRE to taking out the loans to showing up for class. Of course the final steps look daunting – you’re just beginning! I’d put blinders on and just focus on the first steps in front of you: what do you like to do? What do you want to do? It’s ok if the answer is “work as a barrista and relax a bit while I figure it out.”

avatar lemongrass February 19, 2013, 10:43 am

I have no idea what career I would like or if I even want one! It’s completely normal to not know what you want for the rest of your life, that’s a very long time! I hate when people ask me if I’ll be returning to work because I really have no clue, but that is okay. We’re allowed to not have all the answers, nobody does!

avatar Pamplemousse Rose February 19, 2013, 12:35 pm

People are seriously asking you already? Don’t you have a good 10 months before you have to decide?

avatar lemongrass February 19, 2013, 12:48 pm

More than that! I plan to stay home until all the kids are in school and if we have one or two more it could be another 7-10 years before I go back… If I do! I guess some people don’t like my ‘wait and see’ life plan.

avatar emmkat February 19, 2013, 10:54 am

You’re not really supposed to know what you want to do for the rest of your life when you’re only 25! I graduated from college at 21 with no job because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. Five years later and I still have no clue. After a horrible job that paid almost nothing, I ended up working a job overseas with a wonderful company but in an industry I have absolutely no interest in. I was very lucky during the recession, but I still left that job and decided to go the grad school route because I knew that was what I truly wanted to do. I’m now in the first year of a 2-year MA program at one of the most expensive universities in the country (I’ll leave here with $60-80k in loans for the two years, and that’s with a half-tuition scholarship), and I still have absolutely NO CLUE what I want to do with my life afterwards. Even so, I have absolutely no regrets about coming back to school because it’s something I honestly wanted for myself. I disagree with the idea that you should only go to grad school if you know for sure that it’s necessary for your future career and you know what you want to do post-grad school. It can also be a wonderfully fulfilling experience all on its own, which is what it is for me. That said, I would not recommend it for someone who is not absolutely sure that grad school is what they want or need. There are a few people in my program who came here in that situation and they’re simply miserable.

Sometimes you just have to be pragmatic and take the job that pays the bills. That’s what I did after college and I leveraged that into a great experience, even though I had no interest whatsoever in the job I was doing or the industry I was in. The thing to remember is that this isn’t forever. You can keep searching for other jobs that interest you more, you can put more thought into grad school if that’s what you truly want. But you are not stuck in one career for your whole life. I just look at the career paths my parents took: my dad started as an engineer then an insurance salesmen and now has his own small business that makes him truly happy. My mother started as a teacher then worked for the government then worked for a software company before finally going back to teaching. Nothing lasts forever and you will eventually find what makes you happy. It’s called a “quarter life crisis” because you still have three quarters of your life to live!