My last few years of high school were consumed by people asking me what I was going to do once I was finished, a question that I got really good at avoiding. I had no idea, but that didn’t stop people from asking every single time they saw me.

Sure, I’d had ideas, to be honest I’d probably considered most occupations, but I was too busy trying to survive Year 12 and finally finish high school to figure it out properly. When it came to uni applications, I applied everywhere.

I decided that I’d just do that and make my decision after exams, because surely I’d know what I wanted to do then? Wrong.

Sure enough my results were released, my awaited ATAR announced and in the following weeks uni offers started to roll in. I knew I was lucky to be in a situation where I was able to choose between the course offers I’d received, but still I had no idea. I thought maybe I just needed to get through the Christmas period, take a break and I’d know in the new year what to do, right? Nah.

At this point my fairly laidback family tried to help by reminding me that a lot of people don’t know what they want to do after school and although comforting it didn’t help for long.

A question that I’d heard asked a lot in Year 12 from careers advisors and guest speakers was ‘What can you actually see yourself doing?’ The problem was that I couldn’t see myself as anything and it terrified me. I had considered a gap year, but I wasn’t sure what I’d do. Work? I’d left my causal job to focus on Year 12. Travel? I wasn’t in any kind of financial situation that would allow me to travel.

The annoying thing was all the time I was stressing I knew it really didn’t matter what I chose to do. I know successful people that haven’t gone to uni. I know people that have started courses and then ended up changing or dropping out. I know people that have needed a break after school and taken a gap year. I knew that whatever I chose to do wouldn’t lock me down for life and yet I’d put so much pressure on myself to do just that, to get it right the first time.

So, after a few tearful conversations my legend of a dad gave me some pretty good advice. He told me that I would never know what I wanted to do unless I tried a few things out, to flip that question of ‘What can you actually see yourself doing?’ and figure out what I couldn’t see myself doing. To just get out there and try something, anything, just to give myself a chance to figure it out.

It’s a pretty scary time towards to end of high school where the pressure is on to figure out what you’re doing with your life. All of sudden you get to choose how you spend your days, you’re not following any kind of timetable telling you what’s up next, it’s up to you. But please don’t put as much pressure on yourself as I did on myself. Whatever you decide, everything will be fine. Turns out, the world really isn’t going to end if you start something and then change your mind. If nothing else at least you’ll be closer to knowing what you really want to do.

by Gemma Smart