I dreaded graduating from college for months. I didn’t want all my friends to scatter all over the country , I didn’t want to write one more darned cover letter and I didn’t want to clean up my room (which, of course, looked like my closet had decided to throw up all over the floor).
But despite my adamant and unrealistic hopes that college would never end, graduation day came. As much as I didn’t want to leave, I knew I had gotten all I could out of the expensive experience. One more editing class with my favorite professor or another 20-page paper on military interventions wouldn’t have taught me much more. I was sad, but I was also ready, and I had a blast celebrating with family and friends.
There is one thing I wish I could change about the day. If I could go back to the morning of May 20 at about 7 a.m., I’d pick different shoes. Those white sandals that I bought just for graduation felt like daggers in my feet all day (and I have the scars to prove it.)
After graduation, I nursed my feet, moved back home with my parents, celebrated some more and applied and interviewed for jobs. In late June, I was thrilled to find out I had landed a reporting job at the Tonawanda News, where I coincidentally had my first journalism internship back in high school (I was still meek and quiet then, though, so I am sure no one from the office remembered me).
And suddenly, funemployment was over.
The transition from college to work life wasn’t extremely challenging. Sure, work is different, but I didn’t have to move anywhere and my schedule at work is crazy flexible and all over the place — just like college. Covering the news can be stressful, but not any more than studying for an exam worth 75 percent of your grade (which isn’t even fair).
Still, I have learned a lot in the past year, two months and seven days. And even though I clearly missed my one-year anniversary, I figured I’d share my lessons anyway.
In high school and college, I was never sure of what I wanted to do with my life. I spent hours upon hours thinking about my writing ability and my lack of anything resembling math or science skills. Was a major in English really going to get me a job? Should I have donned a lab coat and tried my best figure out how to work a microscope? Those worrying hours got me absolutely nowhere except distraught and confused.
I am now a firm believer that you can never know what you want to do until you try it, full-time, like a real person. Internships helped me, but in the end, a job is the way to go. I still am not really sure about where the future will take me, but I’ve learned a lot more about myself and what I want in a career than I would have biding my time, and I’ve talked to dozens of 20-,30- and 40-somethings who still don’t know, too.
I wholeheartedly agree, but let’s take it one step further: Never compare — ever ever ever (sometimes I channel T-swift). I shouldn’t compare my beginning to someone else’s beginning, or my end to his middle. Using someone else’s career (or body, or car or perfect little babies) as a standard we have to surpass just breeds insecurity and inferiority. Really, compare is just an evil word all around, don’t ya think?
I’ve been comparing myself to other people my entire life, and I’ve definitely struggled the most with this one, but, on most days, the lesson has finally sunk in. I’m sure I graduated with people who are already rocket scientists or have written for The New York Times or are teaching English in China or have taken a gap year to run 10 marathons or climb Mount Everest. But in the end, what’s right for them is not what is right for me (I definitely do not want to be a rocket scientist, anyway). We all have our own journeys and that’s just how it’s supposed to be.
I’ve had a lot of good days, but I’ve had my share of not so good days. I’ve messed up, said something stupid, asked the wrong question and tripped on my way in to an important interview. Then, I feel like an idiot, so my palms sweat and my face turns the color of a perfectly ripe tomato. Yup, it’s super fun. As cliche as it is, the important thing is that each time I had one of those anxiety attacks, I also learned something. Thanks to my blunders, I’ve learned that it’s OK to ask for help if I’m overwhelmed (even if that’s really hard to admit) and how write a correction for the next day’s newspaper ;). And I’ve also realized that the mess-ups and the blushing happens to everyone — even the know-it-alls.
At the end of senior year and shortly after graduation, I said no to a few opportunities. Sure, I could be unemployed right now , kicking myself to high heaven and my lesson here would be much, much different. But, so far, so good. If I don’t think I’m going to be happy, I’m probably right about that feeling. If I don’t think something is right for me, I’m probably right about that feeling too. Believe me, I am the most indecisive person east of the Mississippi, and none of this came easy to me. I know people disagreed with my choices and thought I was making a mistake, but, sometimes, deep down, you just know and, well, have to trust yourself.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in work/school/life?
[P.S. This blog is under construction, I apologize for any dust you may have encountered on your visit ].