Opinion: No, I Don’t Know What I Want to Do


Media by Mason Kellerman (he/him)

The added stress of having to “pick” a career field or job right now is weighing down on many high school students’ shoulders. I believe that there should be less emphasis on knowing exactly what career field one wants to pursue right now and more emphasis on the exploration of potential jobs.

There are kids who have got it all figured out. They’re going to be racecar drivers, fashion designers, aerospace engineers or the author of the next great American novel. They have a trajectory, a goal.

Then there’re kids, like me, who don’t know. When asked, “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” our tongues become cement and our throats close up. We have no answers. 

But everyone expects us to. And that pressure —the pressure of deciding on a career, a job, a lifestyle — is pushing down on our heads until we threaten to explode. 

I know parents, teachers and counselors ask us this question because they want to keep our best interests at heart. They want to help us choose classes that will prepare us for the career field we want to pursue and to give us helpful advice. 

When we shrug and say, “I don’t know,” it only serves to exasperate them. 

“Well, there must be something you’re interested in!” is the response I typically get. 

But that’s the thing: there’s just so many options. What if I like reading, photography, psychology, baking, business and European history? I can’t choose just one thing. 

A major factor that contributes to the stress of deciding what you want to do is college. Colleges ask what you plan to major in on applications and even advertise themselves as leading schools for certain occupations.

The system is set up in a way that encourages people to pick a major and stick with it. It costs almost $20,000 to switch majors at most universities, according to Bright Futures LLC.

The majority of high schoolers are 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. According to the average American lifespan, we have lived only a little less than a quarter of our lives. What we decide to do now, and what we think we’re passionate about could change. It feels as though our teenage selves are deciding how our futures will play out, a fact that could come back to bite our older selves in the butt.

There should be less expectation on high schoolers to know what they want to do and more emphasis on the exploration of potential career paths. Perhaps, in realizing the world isn’t composed of only doctors, teachers and other popular career choices, one might find a field that speaks to them. As the old saying goes, “you never know until you try.” 

There has been one valuable piece of advice I have come across in trying to decide what I want to do: if you can picture yourself doing this thing, this job, day in and day out, while living a happy and fulfilling life, it’s the thing for you. 

Taking that into consideration, instead of cursing the seemingly overwhelming amount of options I have, I should be thankful. My many interests could lead me to discover a career path that could enable me to fully enjoy and live my life.

So, please stop asking us what we’re going to do. We need time to reflect and explore, and when we’re ready to decide, we’ll let you know.