Women Lead Pendidikan Seks
August 12, 2015

Help! I'm Confused About My Future

What to do with that crippling post-graduation confusion and self-doubt.

by Magdalene

Dear Madge,
I'm a 21-year-old woman who's confused about the future. I have felt this way since my last semester at university and now I have already graduated. It influences me when I'm looking for activity after graduation. My family keeps encouraging me to find a job, but I still don't know where I want to go. Instead of feeling challenged and excited just like what my friends do when there's a job vacancy, I feel oppressed and frustrated because there's a doubt in my heart.
In the middle of this confusion, I realize one thing: I love writing. However, is it enough, because I only write what I want to write and I'm afraid people will underestimate my writing once they read it. I'm afraid they will underestimate my thoughts (that's what people often do online, especially on social media, right?). Also, are my oppressed and frustrated feelings signs of depression or stress? What should I do to change those feelings?

Dear Putri,
It is absolutely normal to be 21, confused and have self-doubts about the future. And it is not necessarily a sign of depression or stress. You are at an intersection in life and it’s OK to be scared and not knowing what to do. Don’t compare yourself to your friends, who seem to have things figured out. Everybody has his or her own experience.
I remember this line from the seminal Gen-X movie Reality Bites. The heroine, played by Winona Ryder, is as confused as you are and she says, “I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23.” To which Ethan Hawke’s character replied, “Honey, all you have to be by the time you’re 23 is yourself.”
If you can afford it, meaning there is no rush for you to get a job because you’re financially able to, maybe you could take a gap year. It’s common for students in the US or Europe to take a year off after finishing high school or after completing their undergraduate studies. You can travel, take courses, do volunteer work, and so on, while figuring things out. It would be a good experience to get to know yourself and your aspiration better.
If, like millions of other graduates, you have to immediately find a job because your parents expect you to be financially independent, then find one. You said you love writing, look for a job at a newspaper, magazine, advertising agency, translation agency or any writing related job. Or you can do internship (maybe at Magdalene?).
Don’t worry about people underestimating your thoughts or writing. Many of these workplaces look for fresh graduate with no experience so that they can train and mold you (in a good way, not some kind of brainwashing thing). And pay less, of course.
Don’t be disheartened if you haven’t got it yet. Just take any job that pays for now while you’re working on your writing skill on the side. Any job experience will be useful for your interpersonal skill. It will broaden your horizon and the experience will enrich you as a writer.
If you do get a writing job, don’t pull a Millennial by complaining or criticizing too much or refusing to do menial stuff a rookie employee must do. Be humbled and learn the basics. Don’t leave so soon and jump from one job to another. Stay for a while, do your job well, absorb everything, hone your craft and sharpen your skill. You’ll emerge as a strong writer, unlike those mediocre ones plaguing this country.
Hope it helps and good luck!
Got a burning question about something? Send it to [email protected] -- in English or Indonesian -- with the subject "Ask Madge" or tweet your question to @the_magdalene.