Hello dear readers! It has been some time since I’ve written and I apologize for that. I have no excuses. And, as some of you may know, I graduate from college in less than a week (yeah, that’s was terrifying to write down. Okay, moving forward…). And, as some of you may also know — and as everyone has asked — as far as post-graduation plans, my options are still wide open (which is the polite way to say that after July, I have no plans…none, whatsoever.) I applied for grad school and got rejected twice (though I believe my third rejection is about to be confirmed), so I opened that door and then it closed. I found a job for the summer that will give me a nice cushion to sit on after I get paid, so that will be nice, going from having almost nothing to almost enough to make rent on a low-quality apartment. And I’m going on an awesome family vacation that I absolutely cannot wait to go on. So yeah, I have some plans.
But none of those are the types of plans people are asking about when they ask you what you’re doing after graduation. They want to know what your life plan is. They want to know what pay-off you’ve snagged — in the form of a job, the start of a career — after spending four years and thousands upon thousands of dollars to get a college education. They want to know what your degree was “worth.” That is what family and friends are asking, starting, literally, the first day of your senior year, when they ask, “What are you doing after graduation?” or “What happens next?”
And every time, I have given the same sort of answer: “I dunno yet,” or “I’m not sure,” or “Still figuring it out.” And you know the type of responses I get, the different kinds of looks: of scorn, of concern, of pity, with a few occasional high fives and wishes of luck. But I also have support, from my parents and siblings, and the closest of friends. But the majority of people look at me and wonder, What is this English major going to do with her life, if she still doesn’t have it figured out yet?
And for the longest time, I listened to them. I was freaking out, not knowing what was in store for me next. Especially as my other friends who are also graduating find jobs and sign leases, talking about all the amazing things they are about to go and do — not all of them, but most of them. And I was freaking out that I wasn’t the same, that I still didn’t have everything figured out yet. And then I had to complete my Loan Exit Counseling. I thought I was poor now. Come October, then I will know what being poor means. Good thing I’m not afraid to live a very frugal life.
A lot of different factors were weighing in and the pressure was building. A week out from graduation and still not a job in sight. But a few weeks ago, I was talking with my Mom and expressing my fears and frustrations, feeling the impossibility of surviving as a “real adult” amounting to be too much for me. And she looked at me and asked me why I was freaking out so much. I’m not going to be homeless come Sunday. I have my family’s house I can stay in. And I have plans for the summer. And during the summer, I can continue to job search and look at my options. I can always stay at home and save up my money, then get an apartment somewhere. I could work a part time job for a few months — enough to pay a few of my bills — and stay home and write almost full-time, really dedicate time to my book and trying to find representation. And I could pray — which I have been, often. I could trust in God that I got rejected for a reason; that I haven’t found a job for a reason.
But then, she pointed out something else: I’m graduating from college. I’m graduating from the university I’ve always dreamed of attending. I’m graduating with Honors in a field that is my passion. This is a big deal. This is an important time in my life where my hard work these last four years are paying off in a degree. This is an important time because I get to look back at all the things I’ve done, all that I’ve accomplished, all the friendships I’ve made and the hardships I’ve suffered, and be thankful to have lived through it all. This is an amazing time of my life, but my Mom correctly pointed out I wasn’t enjoying it. I wasn’t enjoying it because I was too busy stressing out what I’m going to do for the rest of my life: work; stressing out what was happening next. Instead of celebrating the fact that I’m graduating and enjoying my last few weeks on campus, I was stressing too much about the future; I was comparing myself too much to my peers; I was losing the importance of the moment.
I woke up, after that conversation, thank goodness. Sure, I’m still stressed about finding a job. I’m still nervous about what my future holds and surviving on my own. But I’m not letting that be the forefront or the focus of all my efforts and thoughts. No, instead I focused on enjoying the last few weeks of classes. I focused on truly looking around as I walked through campus, at all the buildings that make it up, and all the memories associated with them. I focused on cherishing the friends that I have made and living in the moment with them. And now, the last finals week of my collegiate career, I’m focusing on getting pumped for graduation. I’m getting stoked for my Honors ceremony on Friday, where I can finally get the wizard’s hat I’ve been dreaming about since I was a freshman (don’t worry if you don’t understand what I’m talking about, it’s an English major thing). I’m becoming ecstatic about finally getting to walk through the Campanile and walking down that hill. I’m decorating my cap. I’m anxiously awaiting my grad party, where I can celebrate being blessed and capitalizing on amazing opportunities that college presented to me with all of my closest family and friends.
I’m living in this moment, because I deserve it. I deserve to recognize and remember the amazing life I’ve lived the past four years. And then — only after I truly enjoy and embrace this amazing moment in my life — I will get excited about my future; not stressed, not freaking out, like I have been, but excited. Because not only did I just accomplish something great, but I have the world at my fingertips, now. I may have an English degree, but maybe I will apply to be a zoo keeper for a year. Maybe I will work at a local bookstore or a library, living off a meager salary but enjoying the hell out of helping people find their next favorite author (while not so slyly pushing my own favorites in their direction). Maybe I will try and find a publishing gig or work as an editor or for a newspaper or for a video game company, expanding my horizons and trying something new. Maybe I will move out of the state and work at a bank, just to live somewhere different. Maybe I will work at a shitty job that pays well so I can save up and do something else I’d enjoy much more in the future. Maybe I’ll move out of the country or travel the world.
Why would I do any of those things? Because I can. Because the world is waiting for me and my options are limitless. Don’t limit yourself to your degree (but don’t be afraid to pursue your degree, either). If you really want to work in a flower shop even though you’re an accountant, then go and smell those roses. Just because we’re graduating college doesn’t mean we have to start our career right way. We have time and the opportunity to try new things or to take risks. The thing is, I’m a writer and I got my degree to support that. But that doesn’t mean that I have to go work for a publishing company. I can write no matter what else I do. So can you. You can always teach, even if you aren’t inside a classroom. You can help people, even if you don’t have an organization’s logo on your business card. If you are truly passionate about something, you will incorporate it into your life. It would be harder not to.
The lesson I am trying to pass on is this: yes, I graduate in six days and I have no idea what I’m doing afterwards. I have no interviews and no apartment and no plan. And I’m not going to freak about it anymore, because I’m lucky. I have support from those who matter most. I have all the opportunity in the world ahead of me and I’m a smart woman. I’ll figure it out, by doing what feels right and makes me happy. But, until then, I’m going to ride the waves and enjoy it. I’m going to graduate and love it. I’m going to laugh and cry and it will be amazing. Why would I lessen my life by ignoring the joy of the present by stressing out about the fears of the future? That would be a mistake, a heavy mistake, indeed. I’m so glad my Mom called me out on it before it was too late. Here, through this blog, hopefully I can catch a few terrified souls and help them, too. Because you’re okay. You’ve got this. Enjoy the moment, work hard in the present and your future will follow. Have faith in yourself and those you’ve surrounded yourself by. We can do this, Class of 2015. We can totally do this.