So, I've just graduated. About twice a day, somebody asks me the question "What are you going to do next?" I usually answer somewhat sheepishly "I don't know yet. I'm taking a year out", generally followed by an apologetic "but then I will get myself a PhD".
So here I am, with a whole year ahead of me an no plan. The truth is: it's scaring me witless. I take comfort in knowing what to do next and where to go, it gives me a sense of security and purpose. The problem is that I'm also poor at making decisions so I sometimes, I end up following other peoples leads. That doesn't necessarily mean things go badly, occasionally quite the opposite . However, I'm a big girl now and I want to decide for myself and I think before I can really do that, I need to get over the panic of not having a plan, before I can get to the panic about making a plan.
Even though it might not sound like it sometimes, I did intentionally keep my schedule free. I applied neither for a graduate job nor for a PhD. I think it will be good for me. I'm generally such a driven person, when I set my mind to something I go and get it. While that is a very useful skills in many ways, I somehow feel like I never had a chance to breathe, to think, to evaluate what I have and what I want. I think now might be a good point in my life to take that time out.
There are a few practical reasons as well of course. I didn't want to write applications while also trying to complete my thesis, get good grades in my exams and not loose my sanity on the way. Even more importantly, I wanted some time to explore new fields instead of defaulting to the one topic I have had a small glimpse into, which just so happens to be quantum cosmology.
I'm going to use the meantime to brush up on my general knowledge, work with a charity (if they will have me), peek into new areas of physics, learn some new languages and earn some money. Now I know that you might think its counter intuitive to immediately make plans how to fill the void but I don't think literally doing nothing will help. I've watched some of my friends fall into that trap and I'm not keen on spending the vast majority of my life in front of some type of screen, doing mindless things. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion my parents wouldn't let me ;)