I find myself asking this question to each new batch of Masters students I teach. I don't know why I do that. I remember I used to hate it when people used to ask me the same thing. For some reason, people stopped asking me that question after I completed my PhD. Maybe they thought that I had to have it all figured out by now. It has just stuck me that people not asking me that question anymore has to be one of the top benefits that I have got from my PhD degree. Take that all you people who think that it's worthless!
Anyway, back to the post. "What is your goal in life?" I ask them this question every year. Poor lost 23-24 years olds. Like I said, I don't know why I ask them this. Maybe I am just checking if their generation is smarter than mine and has it all figured out. Maybe I get some sort of comfort from getting to know even they don't have the answers. Maybe I am just jealous of the age they are at where everything still seems possible. Maybe I just want to feel happy for them for not being like me.
I ask them. Every year. I get some answers. Mostly I get lost faces. After I am done with asking all of them, inevitably someone gathers the courage to ask me the same thing. They look at me expectantly. Little do they know that most of the times even we don't have answers to the questions we ask. They will learn that quickly enough. Till a few years back, they got "I don't know" as an answer. At least, I was being honest. The answer disappoints them but I could see they were also comforted by the fact that even I didn't know. It was their "Right back at you" moment.
But my answer has changed in the last couple of years. I have given them a simple one word answer. "Retirement". More confused looks. Then laughter. They think I am joking. I tell them I have never been more serious. Then the discussion begins. More on that another day.