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The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Perspective: Making peace with my junior jitters

What are your plans after graduation?

I will not graduate until 2025, but I cannot get away from this question. The pit in my stomach grows deeper every time a family member, acquaintance or even a stranger approaches me with this sentiment.

I have no clue what I am going to do after graduation — and no clue what I want to do with my future.

Now that I’m a junior, it feels like I’m expected to know exactly what career I want to pursue. Living in a city with successful politicians, bankers, diplomats and activists, it is impossible to stop thinking about future careers. D.C. feels fast-paced and relatively stiff compared to my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.

There seems to be a set path, especially at GW: internships, organizations, college degree and then straight into the workforce. It seems like my peers have a firm grasp on their chosen path. Internships, networking and LinkedIn connections are embedded in GW small talk — it is overwhelming to those who don’t know where to start.

Over winter break, I was asked that tricky question on numerous occasions. With each ask, the imminence of my future started to feel like impending doom. How can I be successful when I have little-to-no experience in the workforce at 21 years old? What employer cares about the various school organizations I am involved in? How can I stand out when I feel so ordinary?

During an existential crisis, I realized these thought patterns are only doing more harm than good. I can stay stagnant, fearing my impending future, or I can jump into the present moment and start working harder. I have feared failure throughout my life, and this fear has held me back from various professional and personal opportunities. Failing is necessary for growth, as painful as it is.

I still have more than a year left of university, and I suddenly feel trapped. All I can do right now is apply to internships and go to class. In 2023, I went from living across the world to moving back home to transferring to a brand new college, GW. But the chaos of constant change and mystery of the future was a comfort to me. I am getting restless now that I have reached my final destination, feeling overwhelmed by my future and uninterested in my present.

While I was abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I learned a simple yet rich saying: Mai pen rai, or “no worries.” But the true meaning of mai pen rai is if there is nothing you can do to change or remedy a situation, do not waste your time feeling anxious about it. I have no choice but to be patient and find comfort in my current lifestyle.

GW itself is preparing its students to succeed in the future. Working within a diverse student body and being challenged by diametrically opposed views strengthens character. Living in a metropolitan environment and developing a daily routine is imperative for life after college. We are not here just to get a degree for future job prospects. Learning how to lead, collaborate and take constructive criticism are essential skills for a successful future. Hard work is not always reflected by GPA. It is shown through actions and what one decides to do with the knowledge they’ve accumulated over their college years.

Comparing oneself to other students in an environment like GW can only do more harm than good. Some people have had a set path since middle school, and others change their minds every week. Rather than comparing yourself, draw inspiration and motivation from peers who have put in great amounts of effort to be where they are.

I have found relief in knowing that I am not bound by my degree. Although I am still at odds with the question about my future, I can be at peace with where I am now — college.

Zay Naeem, a junior majoring in international affairs, is an opinions writer.

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