As a college senior I get asked “So, what are you gonna do after graduation?” all the time. If I’m being totally honest, the answer is I don’t know. I have lots of answers, lots of possible plans. When I don’t feel like being totally honest I give those answers. And there is plenty of truth in those answers, they’re things I plan on doing, but they’re not the whole truth, and they’re not the most basic truth. Of course, then people inevitably follow up with “So what do you want to do? What’s your dream job?”
Friends, that is not a question you should ever ask me if you don’t have all day to hear me yammer. I have so many dream jobs and so many dreams I can go on from sun up to sun down about them. To put it in short (and in internet speak): I want all the jobs. I want to do everything that interests me, and frankly, that’s a lot. I want to do history, and archaeology, and forensic anthropology, and writing and teaching and selling books and comfort food. I want to change the world. Choosing one, or even two because life is not a monolith, is nearly impossible. It’s an almost paralyzing feeling when I think about having to choose just one path to go down. I change my mind, and my goals, every day it seems. This is a terrifying time to be in my moccasins because I just don’t know what comes next. Sure, I’ve applied for plenty of jobs. Sure I’m studying to take the GRE. But what path I take after I graduate? I have no idea.
What do I want? Now about that I do have some ideas. I dream of owning a bookstore in a small midwestern city and writing fantasy novels on the side; being a source of knowledge and stories and giving people the lens into other worlds that so often is exactly what you need to get through the rough days. I dream of owning a diner in a small city and serving as a hub for people’s lives. I dream of becoming a youth services librarian and helping kids and teens find great books (and having a great excuse to keep reading those teen books!) and finding new books to bring to our library.
I dream of teaching high school history and introducing people to the ways in which the world was very different in a time before our own. I dream of teaching college history and opening students eyes to the ways in which the past still influences and shapes our world and our culture now. I dream of giving tours through a museum in Chicago or Indianapolis or DC with a staff ID badge clipped to my waist.
I dream of working here in DC to help change the educational policies of various states. I dream of running archaeological digs in the Southwest with aspiring university students. I dream of working in a forensic anthropology lab, and helping to bring the dead home to their families.
My biggest dream though, the one I play closest to the chest, the one I keep alive when all the other dreams temporarily burn out, is the camp. I dream of owning and running a history summer camp for kids, a place for them to discover what it was like to be a member of a society far removed from them. Some American history units, some ancient history units, some renaissance history units. I have starts planned, like doing the kinds of tasks a kid their own age would do at that time, learning to do some of the basic things people did, like sew their own clothes, carve their own furniture (we’d probably use clay and get a demonstration from someone old enough to handle the knives), or mold your own plates, depending on the time and place. But because I will never give up my writing dream, I would also have the kids take what they learned, and write a story about it. Write some historical fiction. Writing is a good skill for kids to have, and their grammar is improved the more they work at it. In writing historical fiction they would also have to synthesize what they’ve learned and put themselves in someone else’s shoes, which increases analytical thinking and empathy. It’s a win-win.
That’s my biggest dream. That’s the one I hold onto closest and tightest. Does that mean I want it most? I don’t know. I want them all. I want to do everything and experience every field.
As for my next steps, right now I’m just focusing on keeping my grades up this semester, graduating as planned, and finding a job in DC.
A lot of my generation is floundering with regard to dream jobs. There are a lot of depressing stories out there about that. But then there are positive morale-boosting, motivational stories, like this one.