Growing up, everyone tells us how going to college is so important. They tell us how it will change our lives, allow us to have better jobs and overall give us a happier life. No one told us how many late nights, early mornings, panics and general distress it would cause to get to graduation, but that’s a different story for a different day. As chaotic my life was while a college student, the experience did turn out to be pretty invaluable. Now that I am a graduate, I feel that I should be in a different stage of life. The transition to the “real world” was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced. Why is that?
I was the first in my family to attend and graduate college. On top of that, I was a minority and low-income attending a predominantly white institution. This entire experience was new to me and my family. Being dropped off two hours away from home, I was filled with mixed emotions. Excited to begin my journey of adulthood but also terrified because neither my high school or family could have prepared me for what was to come. As shy and introverted I was, I didn’t think I would fit in or have much of a social life. I was so wrong. My life started to change as soon as I broke out of my comfort zone and began getting involved on campus. I was a part of a couple of organizations. All of them related back to my desire to help people. I planned events, mentored students and served as the student body president. I thought these opportunities would help me grow personally and professionally. I thought with these on my resume, I would be a great candidate for graduate school.
Academically, I wasn’t so successful. Mixed in with making poor decisions like procrastinating and being a mute in class, I had such a hard time focusing on my school work. I hardly ever brought books. It was rare that I ever prepared myself to learn when walking into class. I would always assume that I could make an “A” on the next test or just do really well on the final. As someone who graduated high school with a 3.9 GPA, you could only imagine how disappointed I was in how my high school habits didn’t support me in college. By the end of the semester, I would be so burnt out from working and my other involvements, I would settle to pass the class with whatever grade I had. Not being an “A” student always bothered me because I knew what I was capable of but I couldn’t figure out how to buckle down to do it. Time to study was limited because I had to work. I also did so much for my university I found it difficult to say no to people whenever there was something on campus that could use my support. While everyone would screenshot and post their awesome grades, it was difficult to like the post because I was jealous. Some of my peers who weren’t involved or work had straight A’s but here I am with struggling with all B’s and C’s.
I graduated with a degree in Communication in May 2017. My next step was to attend graduate school. That seemed like the “right” thing to do because so many around me were applying and I was encouraged by faculty and staff. I wanted to work in higher education since it was so transformative in my life. However, I was so burnt out from my undergrad experience that I decided to take a break. This change of heart really set me back because a lot of my peers had applied to jobs and were getting offers. I, on the other hand, was not. I dedicated my first month out of college to the job hunt. I preferred a job that would help me align my passion for being creative with my strengths in helping students. I applied to one job a day. After a couple of days of not hearing anything, I kicked it up to two applications a day. My bank account was running low and my credit card bill was high. I was so stressed. I was wondering if I would have to settle for being underemployed. After each job application, I would ask myself how is this job an “entry-level” position but they want 2-3 years of experience. While I was in school, I had to work. I couldn’t afford to have an unpaid internship or do a lot of volunteer work like some people. Was everything I went through in my undergrad was for nothing? I had a ton of tangible leadership experience and a Bachelor’s degree and most of the jobs I applied to wanted more from me. I was frightened that I might go into another depression if I couldn’t land a good job. Not to mention, I received my first phone call about my student loans. I was pressed like a panini to find a job worth having. At this point, I had to support myself and prepare for the debt I got myself into. For income, I became an Uber driver. Don’t worry. I have many Uber stories to share, but not today.
After three weeks and a few days of unemployment, I finally received my first and only job offer. I was thrilled to announce that I would serve a local high school as a college adviser. This position would allow me to help other first-generation college students that had similar backgrounds as me. I was ready to start my career by impacting young lives. It didn’t take very long for my students to have an impact on me.
I always encourage my students to follow their dreams. I work with them on finding their passions and helping them find ways to monetize that. Those pep talks soon rubbed off on me. I had to check myself and ask myself, “What am I passionate about? How do I want to impact the world? Do my dreams require me to go to grad school?” It was shocking to identify I had another change of heart. I didn’t want to go to graduate school. I was proud and happy that I received my Bachelor’s degree. This was unchartered territory for me and my family. Now I would like to be a writer and producer. I’ve been interested in the art of storytelling for all of my life. When I was little, I would write for fun. I would be so excited when my teachers would tell us to write something. Using that creative part of my brain would give me a runner’s high. I even won a few writing contests. As I got older, I fell in love with television and film. While everyone else was going to parties and hanging on weekends, I would be in my room watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy.
Each day I try to take the advice I give my students. I remind myself that life is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m not longer try to push myself to in positions I may not be ready for. Although it takes some effort, I force myself to enjoy where I’m at in life. Some days I still get overwhelmed and I feel like I’m not doing enough to reach my goals. Then I think about how some of the most successful people in our time going through the same crisis I’m going through. Oprah was fired from her job at 23. J.K Rowling was broke at 23 and Walt Disney had filed for bankruptcy.
I still don’t have everything figured out, but every day I’ working on it. I still get tired. I still get frustrated. I still feel like giving up, but I don’t. And I’m telling you to not give up either. As we navigate through this crazy thing called life is not easy. However, we have each other to lean on when we are not our strongest. I believe that in time, everything will work out how it’s supposed to be. I believe in you.
What are some of your career plans?