The Last Five and the Next

Five years ago (almost exactly) I sat on the big, L-shaped couch in my sorority house next to all of the seniors (seniors get the couch, duh). At our very last meeting, each senior got to say a few words and then share with everyone what their post-college plans were.

I remember feeling fairly confident in my answer. I have no idea why, because I had about $370 and no actual plan.

I said something like this:

I was moving across the country. I was putting everything in the trunk of my Honda Accord and driving from California to Maine. After a summer spent as a camp counselor in mid-coast Maine, I would move to Boston to start grad school. I’d get my Masters in Education and become a 4th grade teacher. I’d live in Boston.

I wanted it to be true. At the time, it’s exactly what I wanted.

The next five years looked nothing like that. I did become a camp counselor and spent one last summer as a kid, horsing around, doing art projects, and teaching some kids how to canoe.

But somehow months later I wound up in a cubicle and later, in a city I thought I hated (Philadelphia) that I now love.

I sometimes wonder if I’m going to be as off on my predictions for the next five years as I was for the last. Will we stay in Philly, buy a house, and keep living life here? That’s what I want to happen. That’s what I’m fairly sure may happen. But since I was so wrong about the last five years, I’d feel silly pretending that I had any solid plan for the next five. I wonder how much control we really have. I like to think I’m a “make your own destiny” kind of person but I’ve also had life shuffle my cards and re-deal my hand too many times to feel like that’s true.

I think about what I said on that couch fairly often. What if it had happened? And then I can’t shake how much I love my life here and I’m so ridiculously glad I was wrong.

I guess you can file this under “it’s funny how life works out”. Nadine at 22 had no freaking clue what she was doing. Most days, Nadine at 27 still doesn’t.

I’d love to hear what you thought you were going to do after college and what you actually wound up doing. Maybe it will let the new grads amongst us take a deep breath and remember that they can still change their minds 47 more times about what they want to do with their lives.

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  • I love this post because I’m just had my 5 year college reunion too. I knew I was going to law school after college but I imagined graduating from law school and working some corporate job in a huge high rise tower. Now, I’m practicing in my small hometown. Life sure can surprise us!

    • It definitely does 🙂

  • With my birthday recently this has been the topic of choice for me! I am no were near where I thought I would be 5 years ago but I wouldn’t change the path I took instead for anything. I have no idea where I will be 5 years from now but I hope it will be one heck of an adventure:)

    • Love your attitude!! xo

  • I just graduated last month. Also being in a sorority I got to share my immediate post-grad life plans – try to stay in my college town (which I LOVE) and work in my field as a graphic designer. So far, that has been true. I work two jobs as a graphic design intern, but no one seems to be hiring full time. Instead of living by myself again, which I thought I would surely do being the young and independent woman I am, my boyfriend and I decided to bite the bullet and move in together to save money (so we can start paying off my student loan debt). Instead of feeling overjoyed, I’m quickly realizing the real world isn’t all it’s cut out to be. Life doesn’t look how I thought it would a month post grad. It’d be crazy for me to think about what life would look like 5 years post grad!

    • The real world can kind of suck. After I graduated, I lived with my parents for about 8 months before moving out on my own (which was really expensive). I watched a lot of netflix and ate a lot of pizza during that time. It’s okay to be in a bit of an after-graduation funk!

  • I graduated a year ago and my only plan was to not go back to living at home. I spent two months at home trying to figure out my next move then made the move from California to DC, and I’m so happy I did! As soon as I stopped worrying about where my grad school ranked I realized I needed to move somewhere where I would like to live, not where I would like to just go to school.

    • That’s super important to remember. It doesn’t matter if your school is top ranked if you are completely miserable. Is it worth sacraficing years of your life in a city you don’t want to be in? I love DC and for years wanted to move their but I’m glad we wound up in Philly.

  • I graduated in December of 2010 and I was hellbent on living in Nashville and working in the music industry. I did that, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be like. I enjoyed it, learned a lot, but quickly realized it wasn’t the place for me – too cut throat, too unstable. I never would have thought I would end up back in my hometown, teaching barre classes and working for a company I love, but there you go. I also thought I would be married in five years but – so far… 🙂

    • I think the relationship element sneaks up on you. When I met N, I was sure I wanted to stay single for a while, since I had just moved back to the east coast. I did the whole “i don’t want a boyfriend” thing for a while but I knew I wanted to date him. I wouldn’t have expected to be getting married right now.

  • Well, pre-college, I was going to be a music major. Thanks to middle child syndrome, it was community college or nothing…so off I went and ended up with a Communications degree. Then, naturally I thought I’d be a journalist or corporate writer of some sort. Somehow, I ended up on the design team for a non-profit publications unit. I’m definitely not sorry.

    • That sounds like an awesome job! I too graduated with a degree in Communications but mostly because those were the classes I enjoyed and I thought that it was general enough that I could apply it to a variety of careers once I figured out what I wanted to do. I was right. I’m really happy with my major and it has taken me across a variety of fields.

  • 5 years ago, I thought I’d be a recently engaged, Special Education Assistant but cutbacks forced me to go back to school or end up working a minimum wage job in a big city which obviously put our engagement on hold. Going back to school was the best decision I could ever make. I went back to school while working full-time to become a law clerk and I’m now married and working as a real estate law clerk.

    • It seems like there’s a theme amongst the comments that going back to school is never a bad idea. What you thought you were going to do and what you are doing now are so different but isn’t it awsome how life leads you?

  • I really had no idea what I was going to be doing after college, but I never dreamed of the things I’ve actually ended up doing! I’ve decided that planning it all out it just ridiculous; nothing ever works out that way haha. I’m pretty happy letting go and see where life leads me! This is something that would have terrified 18 year old me!

    • I feel like as the end of senior year approached, I realized that I needed a plan (or at least a job). It made me envious of people who just knew their whole lives what they wanted to do. I’ve changed my mind so much!

  • Five years ago I was working at my first internship and I had been in the process of ending the on-again-off-again relationship I had with my ex. At the time, life was really easy and good. I lived at home with my parents, went to my internship at day and nights/weekends I worked at my local Toys-R-Us, a job I loved (NOT because of the kids, because of my fellow coworkers).

    My 5 year plan at the time was to finish up school and live at home for 5 years post grad, save up a crap ton of money and pay off as much student loan debt as possible. I’d get a job locally or in the city and just enjoy my friends and family.

    Fast forward – 4 months before graduation, I was fully enrolled in a 5 year (4.5 for me) bachelors + masters program and I had accepted a job offer 750+ miles away from home, in a city where I knew not a single soul. Life is crazy how it changes and like you said, I have no idea where the next 5 will take me. Hopefully somewhere good! 🙂


    • Such a cool story! I think things sound like they worked out way better for you. Moving that far away from everything you know is scary but it really helps you know yourself better.

  • As a (soon to be) (REALLY soon to be) newly grad, this post and these comments really did give me comfort. In a time where it seems like everyone has the next step planned out, NOT having that next step planned out is so scary. Hopefully five years from now, I can see that this bit of uncertainty led me to a place that I was meant to be.

  • When I graduated college, I planned to work in big oil and eventually move abroad with a multinational oil company. I wanted to go down the management track instead of the technical guru track. I ended up spending a year in a joint venture, moving to consulting for a few years, touring a couple of public schools and quitting my job two weeks later to get kids into college… That was almost 5 years ago. My career path looks NOTHING like what my college degree prepared me for… and I’m pretty glad about that. 😉

  • I have never really had a job I didn’t work before I married Tim and afterwards I was a stay at home mum and loved it, I have never had any great desire to work but that is just me, I have also never had any firm idea in what direction my life would go I just went with the flow

  • Filipa

    I love that this post came up just as I’m about to graduate. I enjoyed my time at uni and met great people, but I’ve been over it for a few months. Hearing what everyone wants to be doing or will doing was putting me off for a while as I didn’t get the government graduate job I wanted – now I’ve started at a charity and I’m learning to accept that things take time, you won’t necessarily reach your target within the first few years of graduating, but that’s not a bad thing, you still have so much time ahead of you.
    Thank you, and to the next five years!

  • Rebecca

    Plans: Grad school for library science in WA (or FL) where my husband was probably going to be stationed (got married at 19! Moved back into my dorm while my husband did his own thing. eekkk!). When his enlistment was up, we were moving to Minneapolis or Greenville, SC. I wanted to be an adult services librarian in a public library. Where I ended up: Upstate NY working as a college librarian and subbing in a public library as a youth services librarian. We love it here and just started house hunting. 🙂

  • i just graduated but boy have plans already changed drastically from what I thought when I was a senior in high school. Plans: Go to a 4 year public university, major in social work, and run cross country and track. Actual real life: Go to a private school, transfer, go to another private school, transfer again, never run on a team, take a year off and live in Rwanda, come back, reluctantly finish with a degree in psychology, move to two different states in less than a year. All of that to say, I stopped planning a long time ago. Life is more fun if you take things as they come. Also makes all the inevitable change a whole lot easier to handle.

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