Worrying about the future

Hi-ho! Hi-ho! It's off to work we go! Hi-ho! It's off to work we go!

I used to be terrified of the Seven Dwarfs of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" fame. Doc, Dopey, Sneezy . all seven of those guys. When I was five years old, I had a dream that the dwarfs were coming to get me. They were swinging their pick-axes as they chased me around my bedroom. Of course, when I woke up, there were no dwarfs in my room (except I was suspicious of that mining union card left on my dresser). After that incident though, I couldn't watch "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" again until I was 11 years old.

What's my point? Looking back on my fear of the seven dwarfs, it was completely irrational. Not merely irrational, but downright laughable. Fear is like that. This past semester I've found myself going through a mid mid-life crisis and a new fear has started gnawing away at me fear of the future. I am graduating next year and still unsure exactly where I want to go or what I want to do.

I sometimes find myself playing the "Where will I be?" game. When I'm typing in letters to the editor or doing something mundane, I'll stop and ask myself, "Where will I be a year from now? Two years from now? Ten years from now?" Up until this point, I've always known what step lies ahead junior high, high school, college. Now I don't. I feel like a "Let's Make a Deal" contestant and I have to choose between one of three doors or the envelope that may be full of cash. I hear audience members shouting out suggestions, but I can't decide what to pick. I know there are others out there feeling the same way.

Then again, I didn't want to sound like a stereotypical, whiny Generation Xer. Our generation has been defined by the media as a group of drifters afraid to confront the horrible future that our parents and grandparents have left for us. I have a serious problem with the whole generational labeling business. I admit that I liked the book "Generation X" and the movie "Slacker," but I hate being herded into any type of group. I've never listened to Peter Frampton or memorized every episode of "Gilligan's Island." I like the song "My Sharona," but I've never danced to it in the middle of a convenience store. I turn the TV station whenever those annoying beer commercials filled with Supertramp and "Green Acres" references come on.

The media have not only lumped me and my peers into Generation X, they have also offered us superficial answers to questions like "What should I do?" or "What type of person should I be?" (Jeez, I'm starting to sound like L. Ron Hubbard's "Dianetics.") For example, the other day I went through old copies of the Arizona Daily Wildcat to see how my predecessors addressed this issue. A lot of them offered advice on how to get internships and stated that you should talk to guidance counselors. And almost every one of the columns end neatly with something like "Follow my advice, keep your chin up and say hello to Mr. Happiness." What a load of crap. The idea of some columnist holding the key to a success is pretty ridiculous. Just because you have a column in the Wildcat doesn't mean you are Mr. Wizard, Dr. Ruth and Tony Robbins all in one (and if it did, you would be one really ugly person).

I don't think the fear-tinged questioning process I am going through is unique to me or my generation. A good college education not only prepares you for the work force, but it should also teach you to think and question. College is a time in which you have the luxury of thinking about what you want to do with your life. Some people come into college knowing that they are going to be doctors or astronomers or journalists. I say more power to them. But even if they know what they want to do, they should examine why money, fame, stability, etc. While I am afraid of which "door" to pick for my future, it's nice to know so many doors are still open.

Lately, I've been going out of my way to talk with people who like their jobs and their lives in general. And to my surprise, they have all said the same thing stop worrying, opportunity will present itself. Take life as it comes, they say, because being a worrywart doesn't do any good. I am starting to believe life is like a big "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" book. Unless you make a series of really bad choices, you inevitably finish the game with satisfactory results.

This column is messy, wandering and does not have the strong, definitive conclusion which all good columns should have. It's a bit like life. I guess I just wanted to let others going through the same emotions to know that they aren't alone. I feel your pain.

Naw, I'm lying. I got cheesy for a moment. I only feel my pain, but I know what you're going through. Do I have any profound advice? Follow your heart. I wish you luck. I hope 10 years from now, you'll be at work and suddenly realize how silly you were to worry about the future. You'll laugh and then go back to whistling while you work.

Jon Burstein is a journalism and political science senior. Like it or not, his columns appear every Tuesday, except for last Tuesday. What's his excuse? He was too busy fretting about the future. Poor baby.

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