So, What Next?


by Madeleine Clark, United World College Maastricht
May 11th, 2018


For many, the most dreaded question towards the end of high school is “So, what’ll you do now?” Not because they don’t know, or because they’re still undecided, but because it’s a symbol for time passed.
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High school encompasses so much of your life, from age 10 to 18, for some, even longer. In most places high school finishes at age 16, then you have to decide what to do with your life. Do I go to college? Do I get a job? Do I join the Military? Some take a break between high school and the next step. I sometimes forget exactly how privileged I am to be among the people I am. Not only in culture, diversity, and passion, but in compassion, I have been spoilt. As much as we all complain, there’s something about the two years we choose to add onto the end of our high school journey. Something raw, something special; something we are no doubt going to miss even though we say we won’t.
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I can’t speak for everyone, I can only speak for myself, though many will relate. Yes, it’s haunting to think about graduating, about moving on and starting anew, but there’s also something enlightening. It’s a fresh start, something to allow us to better ourselves, find ourselves, possibly even reinvent ourselves. Whether you’ve spent your years moving from place to place, country to country, or cemented in the same town for a decade plus. The time for growing up and, for most, leaving home is one of the scariest times in a young adult’s life. My favourite phrase my sisters’ use hangs in the back of my head as I prepare to leave home for the first time; “adulting”. The simplest, most metaphorically packed word I can think of. What does it hold? Everything. Bills, cleaning, grocery shopping, going to uni, work, the doctors. Actually getting out of bed even falls under that word. It’s my favourite for one reason; with it, growing up doesn’t seem quite so scary. University, a gap year, the beginning of an internship, all symbolise the closing of a chapter and the beginning of a new one.
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Still, there’s that question again. “What’ll you do next?” The question that triggers all the memories of the past year, or two, or ten. What will I do next? Will I leave all the amazing people and memories behind, or will I carry them forward with me on my new adventures? We have all had our hardships and triumphs throughout our journey in UWC and no journey has been the same. While there’s so much to fear losing, the friends you never knew you had, those who became family, the many lessons learned along the way; you can only lose what you fail to nurture. The choices we make from here-on-out have the power to determine where we will end up. It’s not a question of “what next”, but a question of “what will I take with me?”
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A fresh start, a move, a choice – not a means to an end, simply a first step in a new direction.

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