by university, friends, parents. nbd, right?


There are many norms that come with being in high school, mostly ones that aren’t realized until you’re out of high school. Everyone dresses the same, regardless if noticed or not. Cafeteria food is terrible, but you make it work, and by the 10th grade, you will commonly be asked ‘what are you planning on doing with your life after graduation?’ 

Although this question seems to be good manners while in a casual conversation and they probably can’t think of anything else to ask you at the time, there are so many reasons why asking a fifteen year old what the rest of their life will look like, is crazy. Not only are you still figuring out how to do your makeup (unless you know, then please teach me), but you’re exploring your interests, figuring out who you truly are—the pressure is so real. 

Once grade 12 came around, I got used to saying the same response to every parent and teacher. It would go something like ‘I am applying to a few universities for business and communications’, I would then get an approving nod from whoever asked and the conversation would be over. Every time my response felt like a society driven test and a form of peer pressure; I felt as if I needed to prove myself to others. The problem was, that university wasn’t the only form of drive or direction in my life at the time.

After spending every lunch break in the library forcing myself to fill out the applications, I ended up being accepted into the programs I had hoped for. I was stoked for about a minute and then something morally shifted for me. I couldn’t help asking myself, ‘is this what I want, or am I just going into a degree because everyone else is?’. I wanted to be like my friends and feared being the one who walked a different path. 

After some soul-searching, tons of yoga, and lots of chats with the people I looked up to, I ended up rejecting my acceptances and started rehearsing a new (albeit, less-approving) response to the constant post-graduation question. 

At the end of grade 12 there was a bulletin board at the front of the school with everyone's names and the university they were attending in the fall. As if that wasn’t enough information for the student body, when crossing the stage in cap and gown, it was repeated. This made the five students who didn’t have a university or scholarship locked in, myself included, feel completely alienated. The whole situation was deranged. 

Two years later and I’ve seen some people love the path they chose, and I’ve also seen some come home or switch directions. I think the post-high school question should go something like ‘what are your passions at the moment in your life?’ and less like ‘hey, do you have checklist for the next ten years, even though you can't even vote yet?’ Thankfully, regardless of the question that you get asked, or the pressures other people have put on you, you have the capacity to choose a route that will make you happy. I am sure I’m not alone in thinking that taking a year or two to travel, or get work experience is logical at any age. The issue with societal pressures is that they generally aren’t that logical.

Some cliche tips to choosing a suiting route: 

  1. Try to let go of other's opinions, they do very little for your personal growth. 
  2. It is important to remember that no one really has their life planned. That adult who asked you the question is winging it every day themselves. 
  3. Failing feels like falling on your tailbone (terrible), but it really does help you find yourself.

Postscript: I took over two years off and now go to Capilano University and I am certain I couldn’t have started any earlier. I finally feel excited to learn, as opposed to being forced or lost; there is a major difference. I would take a thousand more confused or disapproving adult responses (and probably will throughout my twenties), to find my way myself first, than to rush into anything that didn’t feel right. 

— Paloma Lafavor

[girlvana student and now teacher]