No one ever really talks about what happens after you graduate from college and you still don’t know what you want to do with your life. No one ever talked to me about it or prepared me for it, anyway. No one sat down and told me that it really was okay. You’ve finally got the diploma, the degree, you know, all the things you’re “supposed” to get. You worked hard; hopefully you played hard and had the time of your life. I came to college ready to take on the world, eager, excited and so inspired by all the opportunities that lay ahead. But now I hear my name called and I walk up to the platform to shake hands with the president and dean of the university and all I’m feeling is fear. Now what?!
What happens if you aren’t one of those lucky people that have known since they were six that they were going to be a doctor, lawyer, firefighter? What if, like me, you’re thrilled about all the countless possibilities ahead, but have no idea what direction you want to head in? And what if, like me, you graduated in 2009 and the economy is shit, so there aren’t any jobs to be had anyway? On one hand I’m being told to “Go forth and set the world on fire,” and on the other hand I keep being told about the shocking unemployment rate and the effects of the recession. It’s fantastic when I hear those things because it’s not like my anxiety wasn’t already skyrocketing.
I’m a huge proponent for liking what you do for a living. I think much of this stems from all the God-awful part-time jobs I’ve had through my teenage years and young-adult life, starting with the Hell on Earth that is being a supermarket Courtesy Clerk aka grocery bagger. Having a parent who works long hours and hates what they do might also have helped me form this strong opinion. But it was solidified my freshman year of college, when my academic advisor told me that if you don’t love what you’re doing there’s always going to be someone else that does, and they’re going to be better at your job than you are. They’re going to go further and be more successful because they have a little something called passion. She was actually telling me this after I told her I wanted to major in sports management and then go on to law school so that I could be a sports agent. I hate sports…Don’t even ask.
The list of all the things I’ve wanted to be when I “grow-up” goes on forever. First there was the childhood dream of being a marine biologist. All I wanted was to train the orcas at Sea World. If you ask me, that still sounds pretty awesome. Then in high school I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Then in college I thought I wanted to be a fashion photographer, a psychologist, an interior designer, and I don’t even remember what else. I ended up getting my Bachelors of Business Administration with a degree in Marketing. I figured majoring in business was broad enough to give me the endless options I wanted and marketing was the most creative aspect of business, which I craved.
The problem then became that there were now just way too many options. I didn’t and don’t know what my calling is. Second semester of my senior year I was losing my mind because I didn’t even know what kind of jobs to be applying for. I had numerous internships, but nothing ever seemed like a good fit. I had this idea in my mind that I had to know exactly what I wanted from life the minute that diploma was in my hand. Looking back now, over a year and a half later, I realize that was completely irrational and unreasonable. Bottom line – I was scared. I’ve been a student for most of my life and school is what I’m good at. Give me a syllabus, tell me what it takes to get an “A” and I’ll deliver. But there isn’t a syllabus for life and that scared the shit out of me.
After graduation I stayed in Chicago, was brave and didn’t move home and ended up finding a job after about three months. As a side note, those three months of babysitting, handing out crackers for promotional work at Wrigley Field and all the other crazy things my friends and I did for money during that time was some of the best fun I’ve had in my life. As I’m learning, there really is something to be said for the journey. In fact, the journey truly is what it’s all about.
My first job was at a small, fairly new sporting goods manufacturing company where I was doing marketing and a little bit of everything else. It was a great first job and an all-around good experience. Was I passionate about it? Not really, but it was there that I learned how important it is to like the people you work with. I was commuting an hour and a half each way to work every day on a bus, a train and then another bus, but I actually didn’t even really mind because I enjoyed the people that I was spending most of my day with.
After a year in Chicago, I realized I missed California and the support of my family. I made the move home the following May and this pretty much brings me back to where I am now – still searching for the “grown-up” job, working in the meantime as a server and trying to just be patient and go with the flow every day.
Right now I have the “luxury” of living with my parents, so I’m trying to find something I’ll feel fulfilled in doing. For now, I think that’s something in college admission counseling (that’s a different story for a different day). We’ll see what happens. My number one new year’s resolution was to be content with where I am in the present, but never stop being inspired by the opportunities ahead. I need to be patient, I need to relax, I need to keep in mind that I’m 23 and time isn’t running out the way I think it is and I need to constantly remember to enjoy the journey.
I wish, at some point before graduation, someone would have grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Hey! Listen to me! It’s okay if the first job you get isn’t the dream job. And it’s also okay if you’re unemployed for awhile. It’s okay if you don’t have a 401K started at 22 and it’s okay if you’ve got an ungodly amount of student loans (A very intelligent friend once told me that student loans are just keepin’ us real)! Don’t get discouraged! Be patient and persistent. Eventually everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.” Would I have necessarily listened to this person? Probably not. However, I did get some recent words of wisdom that I let sink in from my friend, Kimberly, who reminded me that I’m pretty lucky to have a transition position I enjoy, and that my life sounds pretty good at the moment. There can be freedom in the waiting. And once I find myself committed to a “permanent” position; choices diminish, which can be rewarding or restrictive. I need to enjoy the waiting and excitement of what is yet to come. Always keep a good attitude about it all.
Oh, and for any of you out there thinking that I’ve overreacted or am overreacting to all of this, well you’re probably right. But you know what? All of this is a big deal for me. So what? The feelings and emotions are real and it’s okay if you think it’s silly because you thinking it’s silly doesn’t change anything, really. So you can choose to stop reading or stop listening because otherwise it’s just a waste of your time. However, if you’ve got encouragement to offer, I’m all ears!
We now come back to the question of “Now what?!” Well, now I’ve decided to start a blog. I’ve always liked to write, I love to communicate and while I’m on this great search for my life’s passion, why not become a blogger? So here I am, ready to give my thoughts and opinions, offer advice, say what’s on my mind, journal when necessary, share my favorite things, talk about the things and people who inspire me and write about anything else that may come along. We’ll see where it goes. I hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear your feelings and views as well. As far as this first entry goes, I’d love to hear about experiences from people who didn’t know what they wanted to do after they graduated from college and what the journey has looked liked like for them so far.
“I am seeking the fullest expression of myself, as a human being, on Earth.” –Oprah Winfrey