I’m sure most new grads feel me when I say I’m sick and tired of everybody and their mother asking me what my plans are now that I’m done with school.
It’s fine when family and close friends inquire because they actually (hopefully) care. But, when your uncle’s neighbor’s best friend’s second cousin’s dog walker’s ex-girlfriend is grilling you on what’s next in your life, well they’re just being nosey, and I can’t stand nosey people.
Okay, I’m probably being a little sensitive and should take a chill pill (yeah, that sounds nice), but questions about the future can be a little awkward to answer when you’re headed down a nontraditional path like I am. Don’t get me wrong. I’m super stoked about my decision to move to Spain. Honestly, I’ve probably never been so excited about anything in my life. For some reason though, when I first graduated, I was shy about telling people what my plans were.
In late July, I was staying with a friend when her future mother-in-law asked me what my plans were now that I had graduated. My cheeks got hot. I looked down at the floor and told her I didn’t have any plans. I told her I’m “just hanging out.”
“Just hanging out?” How lame is that? What were you thinking, Alex?! You’re setting out on the adventure of a lifetime. You’re going to live abroad thus making one of your lifelong dreams come true! Surely, you could have come up with something better than “just hanging out.”
Later, my friend asked me why I hadn’t just said I was moving to Spain. I mean, that is the truth. So, I tried to explain to her why I was sheepish.
I guess, it boiled down to how people react, which was generally one of three ways:
1. “I wish I had done something like that” or “I wish I could do something like that.” I would have to hold myself back from replying, “Why didn’t you?” or “Why don’t you?” The whole exchange left me feeling like a snobby, rich, white girl (which I’m not) who’s jetting off to a foreign country and acting like I’m better than everybody else because of it. I understand everyone has different life circumstances, and I’m very fortunate to be doing what I’m doing. Conversations like this one left me feeling either sad other people don’t have the same opportunity or frustrated people don’t seize the opportunity when it presents itself.
2. “Shouldn’t you be getting a job?” or “What about your career?” Pretty ballsy, in my opinion, but I guess it’s just human nature to makes unnecessary, unwanted comments. Luckily, I haven’t encountered too many of these jerks, but I dreaded these exchanges nonetheless. I wanted to slap these people and tell them to mind their own damn business. Don’t you think I’ve thought about those things already? Guess what, buddy? I’ve had that same conversation a zillion times with my parents! Please don’t act like you’re genuinely concerned about my long-term well-being or financial stability.
3. “That sounds fun! I’m so happy for you.” When someone says they’re happy for me, I might get a three-second warm fuzzy feeling in my heart, but I don’t need anyone’s approval. I travel for self-fulfillment. While I appreciate the kind words, what people might say or think did not in any way influence my decision to move to Spain. I knew this was something I had to do for myself regardless of public opinion. If you’re supportive, that’s great. If not, you won’t catch me crying over it.
The above scenarios were ones I experienced time and again since deciding to be an au pair and up until I actually left for Spain. However, after the encounter with my friend’s future MIL, I promised myself I’d stop being shy. I realized how ridiculous it was to hide my joy. From that point on, whenever someone asked me what my plans were now that I’ve graduated, I confidently told them I was moving to Madrid to study Spanish. Regardless of their reaction, I was (and continue to be) proud of myself for answering with my real plans and not giving some lame answer.
Have you ever felt guilty about sharing good news with people? How do you tell people you’re taking time for some long-term travel?