I'll always remember the holiday season of my senior year in high school as chaotic — college applications were freshly submitted, and the torture of waiting to hear back was only amplified by the constant badgering of questions from relatives and family friends. There was no social obligation, holiday party, or family gathering without having to answer "So, what are you going to do next?"
Once safely in college, however, coming home for the holidays was nearly perfect: a bottomless fridge, free laundry, and home-cooked meals were just a few of countless perks of being back at home. No one was asking the "what's next" questions, only the "what's new" ones. These life updates during the middle years of my college life were easily pacified with "Yup, still majoring in X," "No, no longer dating Y," and "I'm working a part time job at Z." The questions asked of me were short term, and ones I had answers to.
But now, at the close of my my college career and what will hopefully be the last time I live at home for a month, I've found myself back in the same chaos of my senior year of high school. People are starting to ask the "what's next" question — and expecting answers — when truthfully, I don't have them. This year I'll be returning home fresh off of quitting my job and only months away from my looming graduation into the "real" world. I know the interrogation is coming, so here's how I plan to survive it.
1. You Ask the Questions
Turn the tables and put questioning relatives and friends in the hot seat. Ask what your aunt did after she graduated college, what your grandma's dream job was, or what university your younger cousin wants to go to. By cultivating the conversation topic yourself, you can control what you talk about and steer clear of problem areas (i.e. your own unemployment and cluelessness about the future) if so desired.
2. Set Boundaries
Regardless of how many questions you ask others, it's safe to say that those who intend to inquire about your plans post-graduation will persevere and ask anyway. If the prospect of saying "I don't know yet" still seems too daunting, take a step back and say you'd rather talk about something else. Most likely, if the person you're talking to respects your feelings, they will gladly converse about another topic. Setting boundaries is hard and requires strength to stand up for yourself. Taking initiative to remove yourself from a possibly anxiety-inducing conversation is not only admirable, but an act of self-respect.
3. Own the Uncertainty
Another way to stand up for yourself is to simply own the fact that you don't know what's to come after you graduate. Be confident in your ability to achieve something great, even if there's nothing lined up yet. Having honest conversations with family members might even spark connections or ideas you've yet to consider. Know that you still have time, and try not to let other people's opinions or judgments get in the way of your own life.
Just try to focus on the fact that you somehow made it through four years of college unscathed, because graduating with a degree is a huge achievement in itself! By keeping these tips in mind, you can reduce the stress that comes with transitioning into a new chapter of life and savor what might be your last long holiday break at home before jumping into the real world outside of school.