I Achieved A Lifelong Dream and All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt

About a year and a half ago, I was fresh out of college and flat on my ass. But back then, I was flat on my ass in the exciting, “fresh out of college” way where the entire world is filled with possibility and excitement. I packed up my school life (a single lamp and a few boxes of clothes) in a UHaul and made my way home, my head held as high as my expectations for the future. I knew I was going to fight tooth and nail for the career I had been preparing for since day one of college. I remember sitting in my dorm, researching companies I wanted to intern at, people I wanted to model my career after, and entry level positions to fight for once I graduated in four years. (I’m sure you don’t need me to point out how fun I am at parties)

One transfer to a new school, three unpaid and uncredited internships, and several anxiety-fueled resume-boosters later, I found myself in that UHaul, ready for whatever life threw my way. And after a few months of applying to anything I could, taking an odd job or two, and one particularly cinematic cry in a rainy Taco Bell parking lot, I opened an email (the email) saying I was accepted to a program (the program) that I only ever dreamed of getting into. It was the entry level job to top all entry level jobs. And for over a year, it felt like I was living in a dream. I was finally there, not only at the start of my dream career, but at the start of my dream life.

And yet here I am, waking up from that dream, packing my life up once again, and loading up a UHaul (this time with a lot more furniture) to move home. By the end of the program, I accomplished most of the things I planned to do, worked with and for the people I modeled my career after, and checked off more boxes on my Bucket List than I felt comfortable checking off in just one year of life. And somehow, I’m back to where I was. Flat on my ass.

And now what? What happens when you take one huge jump forward and turn around to find yourself in the same exact place you were before you jumped?

I can’t tell you what the right next move is, but I can tell you that before you make any move at all, it will feel awful. It’s hard. It sucks to think of the exciting things you’ve done and progress you’ve made while standing at the starting line once again. And even if you logically understand how you got to this point and you can clearly see the end, figuring out how to connect the two all over again is not easy and it sure as hell isn’t fun.

But you have to remember that even though you’re at the start again, you’ve already been around the track. You’ve grown. You’ve made progress. You’ve started the long climb.

I think we’re all led to believe that once we start achieving our dreams, and start climbing that ladder, that it’s all going to fall into place. You’ve worked hard your whole life. You’ve done what you were told to do to find success. Why shouldn’t things work out?

Because that isn’t what life is. And that isn’t what life has ever been. Life has never been a straight shot. It has never been a clear sequence of events. It isn’t clean or simple, it’s missteps and mistakes, trial and error, and a whole lot of hard work. It’s planning for the best and expecting the worst. It’s transferring schools and taking odd jobs. It’s panicked late nights and the occasional cry in a Taco Bell parking lot. Life is packing up what your life was and moving on to something new and maybe something unknown with your head held as high as your expectations for yourself.

You may be flat on your ass. You may be feeling stuck. And that next step may not come tomorrow, and it may not be the step you dreamed of and planned for for years, but it’s a step forward. And this time around, you’ve got all the tools you started with and more.