Dear Oracle, I’m 16, and I don’t know what I want to do with my life. People keep saying to go to college, but I don’t know what I would study. I don’t like [high school.] I could graduate early this year[as a junior], but I don’t know what I would do after. What should I do?—Freaked Out Over Future
Cards: The Hanged Man, Four of Swords (reversed), New Moon, Six of Pentacles (reversed)
Illustration via upsidedowncake/Adobe
The New Moon in my deck is a card of new beginnings and creativity.
Dear Future, first and foremost, I want you to know that you are not alone. There are FAR more 16-year-olds out there who are in the same position as you. Hell, there are plenty of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who aren’t sure what they want to do with their life.
Junior year can kickstart a lot of anxiety about the future. Adults and peers are talking about college a lot more, you’re taking SATs, and you realize that in two years, you’ll be a full-blown adult. (Legally, anyway. Your 20s are essentially a Peter Pan age.) It can feel like a lot!
For your cards, let’s start with the minor arcana first because they are FULL of possibilities. The New Moon in my deck is a card of new beginnings and creativity. It’s that glorious scary-exciting dark of potential. Right now, at 16, anything is possible for your future. You might go to college, you might go to culinary school, you might go to Burning Man and discover you love large-scale, pyrotechnic sculpture. All things are possible!
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And as much as I know you want to figure out what’s out there, the Four of Swords is here to remind us that everything happens in its own time. While you can prepare for the future, you can’t rush it. You just gotta let things unfold. What you (and the rest of us) have to learn is how to live with that uncertainty. It’s not easy—but you won’t have to live with that uncertainty forever.
The Six of Pentacles is a gift giver, and in this instance, I think it’s about figuring out how you can share your gifts with the world. While you may not know what you want to do as a career, you do have a personality and desires and things you enjoy doing. Maybe you love talking to people or taking care of animals, or telling jokes. This doesn’t have to be a career driver—you don’t have to become a lawyer just because you like debating—but as you grow, you’ll start to figure out how you like to spend your time and spread your gifts. But right now, you’re in your new moon phase. Explore!
Now, while you’re unsure of what you want to do, your question does show something you don’t want: high school. You say you don’t like it and are considering graduating early, but you don’t give a reason why.
The Hanged Man is a card for outsiders, a symbol of the misunderstood that is, fittingly, often misunderstood.
I deeply apologize if I’m totally wrong here, but do you perhaps feel like an outsider at school? Academically, socially, both? (or neither?) If so, I’m so sorry. High school, and adolescence in general, can feel downright suffocating if you feel like you’re on the outside looking in.
It’s also not lost on me that if you are a junior, you started your high school career in Fall 2020. I can only imagine how isolating it felt to be a freshman at a new school AND trapped in your room doing class virtually. COVID is a bastard for many reasons, but I’m particularly sorry that it robbed you of a critical socializing and academic time in your life.
If your freshman year was a hard time academically—and the COVID year was for many students—you might feel like you’re still trying to catch up, which can be stressful.
The Hanged Man isn’t a bad card, though. Paired with the Six of Pentacles, it might mean you have something unique to give the world. Maybe you’ll be a skilled tattoo artist or a revolutionary or make new instruments. You might strike a path that includes college or a path that doesn’t. Again, you have time to decide.
However, I will encourage you to stay the full four years in high school. I know. High school can suck. I considered dropping out on a frequent basis from 10th grade on.
I get the drive to leave ASAP. But The Hanged Man gains truth through his suffering, and while I don’t think social anguish builds character, I do believe the last two years of high school will buy you time to figure out what you want.
I don’t know what school you attend, but typically you can take (more) electives junior and senior year. Maybe you’ll find out that you’re passionate about musical theater or psychology, or AV classes. Perhaps volleyball will reveal itself as your one true love. Or you might make friends with a goth kid in Yearbook and discover you really want to make industrial music. Who knows?
But I worry that you might feel even more isolated if you graduate early without a plan. If you were considering leaving to start job training or taking classes at HCC, that would be different. But if you’re unsure, why not take advantage of some things school offers to figure out what you like? A career/college counselor might help you look at all your options. A guidance counselor might be beneficial to talk to about your worries.
Adolescence is not an easy time. If it was, it would have a higher survival rate. But I’m proud of you for reaching out, and I’m excited for your future to unfold, whatever that may be.
Thank you for trusting me with your question.