I have a confession: I didn’t walk at my college graduation. Truth be told, I had a really rough senior year of college and at the time I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing much of anything. I was exhausted! I was mentally drained and couldn’t stand the idea of being celebrated or receiving head pats for the history degree I’d earned almost on accident (long story short I realized I should major in history because I’d taken enough history courses that 80% of the requirements were already met). I was not proud of myself, I felt directionless and to top it all off I’d gone through a pretty traumatic break up a few months prior leaving me highly emotional to say the least.
Now it’s been three years since I would have put on my cap and gown and it has certainly been a journey! The first year after graduating was really difficult for me and the second wasn’t a cake walk either. I dabbled in marketing, fashion and even fell back on nannying much to my dismay. I toyed around with business school, took online fashion journalism courses and tried to sell wedding dresses (even though I was a lot better at playing dress up than closing a sale). I was FIRED from a job, I quit a few jobs, I was unemployed for three long months while I interviewed like a madwoman. The past three years were a bumpy ride filled with every emotion both good and bad.
To sum it all up in a neat and tidy package I’ve learned SO much since graduating. I thought my time off between undergrad and graduate school was supposed to help me gain experience that would make me a better candidate for graduate school (I always knew I wanted to go back for another degree) but it turned out, more than anything I needed time to wander. I needed time to explore working in social media and working in fashion and working in big offices and small offices and startups and giant corporations. I needed to dip my toes all over the place because I wanted to be sure I’d tasted a variety of experiences before I settled down and stuck with something.
Strangely enough, I can say the same thing about dating. I had a really over the top romantic, fairytale high school love story. I dated my first love for four years and deeply mourned our breakup. I never looked back though because I knew I needed to experience more, a high school sweetheart turned husband was not the story I envisioned for myself (despite what is right for others) because I needed to experience more before I could commit. I needed other relationships (even bad ones, actually especially the bad ones) to learn and grow and develop. Likewise, I needed to get out there in the workforce and experience a variety of office environments before I could embrace an opportunity fully with my heart.
Now that graduation season is upon us I can’t help but wish I could individually encourage each anxiety ridden graduate who shares a similar story as my own. It’s okay not to know what you’re doing, it’s okay not to know where you’re going. Your sorority sister might be engaged and buying a house and your bestie might be headed off to a career with full medical, dental and 4 weeks of PTO a year…that is well and good but your path doesn’t need to be paved just yet. Graduating college is confusing because up until that point you likely hit a lot of “major milestones” at the same time as your peers. You could measure yourself up against your friends and see how you were doing (even if you didn’t realize you were doing it), but after graduation it’s different. Life moves in different directions and your pace doesn’t have to match everyone else’s pace. Creating a journey that is unique and personalized to you is the fun part even though it can feel intimidating.
Here’s my advice, embrace whatever stage you’re at.
If you’re kicking off your dream career embrace that and dive in head first. If you’re working a SUCKY job to make ends meet while figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your life, embrace that stage too. Embrace homework free evenings to make dinner with friends and go to “grown up” happy hours. Embrace the extra time you have if you can’t find full time work. Embrace spending time with your family if you’re moving home. Whatever it is you do make the best and the most of it. You will have struggles but the girl landing her dream job straight out of college has struggles too! We all face adversity. I strongly believe that no matter what path you’re on after college graduation you have a whole lot to learn during your first years in the “real world”. I sure did!