I don’t know, yet

I am months away from being a real adult in the real world, and I don’t know what I am doing, yet.


Class of 2022 graduation takes place at the end of May. Photo by Jess Kishbaugh, ’24.

Mary Alice Russell

We are all familiar with THE dreaded question we hear starting around our junior year of high school. I imagine when some hear it, they still want to cringe. 

“So, where do you want to go to college?” 

I was one of the lucky ones. I knew the answer to this question without hesitation. Washington and Lee has always been an inherent part of me, tied so deeply to my heart that I knew the only real answer could ever be for me to come here. 

Now, as a second semester senior, I am being asked a question that I dread even more – one that I do not have an inherent answer to.  

“What do you want to do?” 

There is no need for the prepositional phrase “after you graduate” or “in the real world.” People just want to know what you want to do. And while the question is only six words, it is one of the most complex questions I have ever been asked.

When I was 18, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to live in New York and perform on Broadway. Now at 22, the ideas and plans I had at 18 seem elementary and no longer representative of me and what I want. 

For all of you so curious to know who I am and what I want to do for my whole life, my response is: I don’t know, yet. 

The most important part of this answer is the last word. I know and have full confidence that one day, maybe one day soon, I will know what I want to do or will be asked to do something. However, with everything, I believe we learn what we want to do over time, as we grow as people, as we learn more about ourselves and as we start to see the world in an older, wiser light. It is important to experience, to learn what you want to do and who you want to be. 

If I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life right now, I would feel secure, but I also believe I would feel trapped. Trapped trying to define myself through a job, through a profession, instead of working to discover who I am is who I want to be. I do not know what I want to do, but I think I am discovering who I am. I think that is more important. 

I have always had a good sense of who I am, and I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this exact moment, even though what my future looks like is not crystal clear. 

I used to love the Magic 8-Ball. I remember going to a friend’s house when I was very little and just passing the ball back and forth asking it to reveal our futures to us. I have always wanted my next step just to be told to me, for my entire life to be revealed by the universe. 

My younger self would be horrified to know that at 22, I do not have an exact plan for the future. Before coming to college and even still in college, I have always been the one who has it together. I am the one people come up to when they forgot their pencil because I have a pencil case that is heavier than some people’s backpacks. I am the one that can always encourage others and help them get back on their feet. 

Now for the first time, I am starting to feel like I am helping myself. 

Recently, I have become intrigued by the brilliance of the unknown, acknowledging and embracing who I am in this moment, in this place, in this time. 

My dad always tells me that your time in college is some of the best years of your life. I would be dishonest to say that these years have not been the best of my life, so far, but I also hope that the best is yet to come.