Someday I’ll be old enough to read fairy tales again.

I just realized why the early 20s is supposed to be one of the hardest, if not the hardest part of a person’s life.

I was filling out applications for REU programs for this summer and after the typical biographical fill-in-the-blank questions, I inevitably always get to the essay questions. This one in particular had a question that I hadn’t had to answer on any of the other apps:

Specifically, where do you see yourself career-wise in 5 years?

One of the previous questions had asked a vague question about my career and education goals but this asked for specifics. I had 2 objections to this question.

Firstly, some people my age are still undecided about their major so how exactly can they expect me to know specifics about where I’m going to be in 5 years?

Secondly, there is no way that I’m going to be able to be get more specific than the answer I gave for the previous question so I (and everyone else) will be making the answer up.

However, I wanted to get this app done so I could send my professors a list of email address for letters of recommendation. So I googled entry-level positions at pharmaceutical companies and clinical research facilities in order that I may neatly construct an answer that soundly remotely feasible.

You want to know what I found out? The jobs that I’m looking for have incredibly high requirements in order to even be considered for the interview. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a lot of competition over only a few jobs. And yes, I feel like that’s how it is everywhere with any degree, but it finally hit me how hard it’s going to be when I graduate.

No wonder people my age either hate fairy tales or obsess over them. Happy endings seem a long way off when you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. You have the option of ignoring the stories that seem a hint too cheerful because they are constant reminders of exactly what your life could be and isn’t. Or you can swallow them whole and gorge yourself on fake realities because it somehow makes this reality seem a little less harsh.

Can you do both?


6 thoughts on “Someday I’ll be old enough to read fairy tales again.

  1. Hey, Syd. It’s important to articulate plans and be willing to evaluate and iterate those plans based on a realistic assessment of your capabilities and the requirements for those plans. It seems like you are doing a good job at that. However, in my experience, if we start down the path we think God is leading us on, new options open up for us that we wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t started down that path. For example, I thought God wanted me to get a PhD in Math so I could teach at a Christian College (which is the only option I knew at the time I had to decide to go to grad school). However, as I was finishing up grad school in 1980, no Christian College in North America needed a Math PhD. As I was yelling at God about this dilemma, I got a distinct impression that went something like “Check out Industry, dummy”. Long story short, I ended up at Bell Labs and, now, after 34 years as a Systems Engineer in Telecom, I’m embarking on a Consulting career (which seems to be what God wants me to do now).

    One of the key things I’ve learned is that I need to keep giving my plans to God and saying “I think this is what you want me to do. Please show me if you have something different in mind.”. if you do that, you can start in the direction He is currently showing you and trust Him to let you know when you need to make course corrections. Of course, since I usually find out about the need for course corrections by running head on into brick walls, I hope you learn a bit more gracefully than I do. 🙂

      • It’s a blessing to be able to read your blog and remember some of the challenges life presents at your stage of the marathon. I’m closer to the end of the race than to the beginning but I can still recall the “what in the world do you want me to do now, God?” questions from back then. Of course, I’ve been having a dialogue like that with Him as I’ve tried to figure out whether to pursue a Consulting path or to try to find another full-time job over the last several months. So, it pays to get good at asking God questions and hearing His responses – that’s a skill that will come in handy for as long as you are seeking to glorify Him with your life (i.e. likely forever). 🙂

  2. Max Morgan says:

    Hey I also got this e-mail. I too, was enthusiastic about the opportunities that arose for me, which were plenty due to my major. I was quickly bogged down in the application process, however, and schoolwork, of course. I hope that it works out for you with what you want to do this summer.

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