College Grad: Permission to Wander

“Not all who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien. 

I found this quote scrawled on one of my father’s shirt this morning as I was hanging clothes. (Yes, sometimes I do chores). The words part of a larger quote from the Lord of the Rings, stuck with me. I found myself wondering, “How many college graduates leave school with the intention to wander, to see and explore, throwing longterm plans and cares to the wind?”

Engineering firms, Peace Corps, communication agencies, Teach for America, graduate school–hiring the best and the brightest. Many of my college friends have already solidified jobs, fellowships, and placement in graduate programs with a clear start toward their career path. They seem so ready, hungry for the chance to make a change, make money and make a difference. Have they postponed their opportunity to wander?

I can’t blame them. I too got swept up in the wave of applications, interviews and “See resume attached” e-mail bodies. During finals week, I accepted an offer from Center for EcoTechnology, a one-year fellowship position doing residential environmental outreach. I have a plan. Helping people save energy in Massachusetts. Finally I can hold my head high and say, “Yes I do have a plan after graduation” at awkward family gatherings.

Now, in just over a month I will begin in a new town with a new job and a new start. Craigslist is my new bookmark favorite as I search for apartments, a used car and available items to furnish my hypothetical new bedroom. I’ve tried to remember the last new friend I’ve made, how exactly strangers move from the awkward initial encounter to texting pals and Friday night plans. Am I settling for a short-term organized plan instead of wandering, exploring the unknown outside of academia? I don’t know. Maybe the act of wandering is more of a mindset anyway. One can only fear the fear of being lost.

Post-Grad just came on TV. Time to watch someone else struggle with life after college.