An idea I always had for this blog was to every once in a while ask someone to write about their post-college experience. My reason being I think it’s important for us to share our stories and let people our age know we’re not the only ones having these thoughts, emotions, fears, experiences, etc.
I am so excited to have Stephanie Marchese be my first guest blogger! She found Va Bene and reached out to me (which I am so grateful for!), making me realize she’d be a perfect person to write about her journey after graduation.
I hope you get as much from her story as I do. Here’s a little background info on Stephanie before you get started:
Stephanie Marchese of Totowa, New Jersey received her Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Massachusetts in Amherst on May 15, 2010. Stephanie graduated with academic distinction from the school of Social and Behavioral Sciences with a degree in Political Science and Italian. She considers herself a political junkie, a frequent flyer, a die-hard Patriots fan, a wine connoisseur and a Disney aficionado. When she was five she wanted to be a NYC Rockette. She is most proud of her time spent abroad in Italy, her contributions to the UMass Dance Team, volunteering on Obama’s campaign and her master’s degree in Italian literature. Stephanie is a legislative policy analyst for the New Jersey Hospital Association which is a not-for-profit trade organization committed to helping NJ hospitals and health systems provide quality, accessible and affordable care to their communities.
And now, her story:
To me, the very thought of life after graduation was inconceivable. My life in Amherst morphed into a repetitious cycle of homework, exams, dance team practices and being a normal twenty-something-year-old kid trying to figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. As May approached I began to feel uneasy about solidifying an answer. Wanna know the truth? I didn’t know. For the first time in my life I didn’t have a plan. This was life after graduation.
The unknown can be exciting for some, but for an obsessive compulsive control freak like myself, it was as horrifying as losing my daily planner. One evening in May, I sat quiet on my parents’ deck with my college photo album in hand. I perused each page much like a yearbook, remembering the last four years of my life. I loved college because there was always an end goal in sight. I knew where I was headed and I got there. The faces in the pictures reminded me of a time not too long ago. A time when waking up at noon and eating dessert before dinner were completely acceptable. As I sat there in the shadows of the sunset, I wondered what would be next. Graduation seemed like forever ago and the job search was not looking promising. I looked to the horizon and thought, “here we go.”
And so started my life post-graduation. My friends dispersed all over the country. Some remained on the east coast while others moved west calling San Francisco and Denver home. I started feeling lonely and sad, even empty. This was an entirely new concept I had to grapple with. I was a planner! In the months that followed I drove myself crazy trying to find a job. I sent out dozens upon dozens of resumes. I even tried my hand at odd jobs to pass the time. I like to describe that period of my life as the time I traded in jobs as frequently as I changed my shoes. I was crazed in finding the perfect job, the perfect ending. So much so, that I was forcing the shoe to fit. This Cinderella just had to wait her turn.
And so I waited. I calmed down. I stopped worrying. I eventually realized that breaking myself down wasn’t worth it. Letting life come to me would be the better option. So I traded in my daycare team t-shirt for a pair of shades and a UMass tee and got to living my life. That summer I sat longer in the sun, read a couple of books, ate well, learned how to cook and spent time with my friends, family and boyfriend. Before I knew it, the summer I had been dreading turned into the summer I wished wouldn’t end.
Skipping ahead, that fall I found myself at Rutgers University pursuing a master’s degree in Italian. As part of my new “living for Stephanie” plan I decided to study a subject I was most passionate about. I began to get busy—the kind of busy that keeps you on your toes. I was happy again. Little did I know this was just the beginning.
On a cool October night, my boyfriend sent me a job post from the internet. He urged me to apply, but I wasn’t convinced. The post was a month old and I didn’t even have a cover letter written. He pressed me until I sent my resume. I didn’t have any expectations. In fact, I didn’t even think they would call, but they did. Monday I was asked to interview, Friday I was offered the job. The shoe finally fit!
I like to think if I could go back in time I would have some great advice for my newly graduated self. I like to think I’d tell that young girl to follow the roads of life. I’d tell her that no one person has it all figured out. I would explain the importance of living a life completely unabridged, stressing how truly liberating it felt to NOT have all the answers.
So young people on the heels of your college graduation I offer you this…
Graduating college? Well, you can expect to go through a variety of changes and emotions over the next few months. Don’t worry though. Part of learning in your 20s is done through making mistakes. Trust you’ll make plenty of ‘em. Now is your time to learn, to find yourself, to figure out what you are all about. Don’t waste time worrying about the “what-ifs.” What and if are two simple words, but putting them together can drive a person crazy. Live freely, openly, spiritually, happily. Love unconditionally and remember to laugh at your misfortunes. Trust me, the best years of your life don’t end after graduation, they are just beginning.
Stephanie, I can’t thank you enough for this post!
If anyone else would like to share their story, please shoot me an email. Would love to hear about the path you’ve taken!