Dig, if you will, this picture: I am a well-adjusted, well-rested recent college graduate who is productively contributing to society in personally and professionally meaningful ways.
In this picture, I absolutely do not have a caffeine addiction. I tell my doctor that I only have “two, maybe three” drinks a week (“socially”) and I’m actually telling the truth. I go to the gym every single morning before work.
In this picture, I have time to keep up with #peakTV. I have time to read everything on those snooty, premature “Top 20 greatest books of the 21st century” listicles. I have time to listen to the latest intellectually stimulating podcast making the rounds on Liberal Media Twitter.
In this picture, I do not sometimes find myself up at 2 AM, questioning my chosen profession over a third round of edits. I do not sometimes find myself wondering, “Why does my wrist hurt; did the inevitable carpal tunnel nightmare finally happen?” or “Why didn’t I do something less masochistic than journalism, like maybe almost anything else?” or “OMG why didn’t I try to marry rich, I’m an idiot, I totally did this all wrong???” I did not revise this post eleven times, and I topped it off with the snappiest headline you have ever seen in your life. Obviously, you clicked on it instantly.
HAHAHAHAHA my fever dream, ladies and gents. The Texas sun is getting to my head.
Truths: I am currently surviving off of familial love and H-E-B tortillas, as I pretty much have no money. I fell into journalism after I failed out of calculus and it turned out I wasn’t half bad at this writing thing, but one learns this quickly and it bears repeating every step of the way: following your dreams is not glam. It’s work you put in every single day, work that you realize equals late nights and self-doubt and sacrifice, work that — especially now — I still have no plans to stop.
More truths: I am a 21-year-old Latina girl-woman who just graduated out of the cushy Ivory Tower, palm tree-lined college life I’d known for the last four years into something considerably more grounded: the Real World.
I’m trying to remain true to myself as I undergo the transitory whiplash of post-grad living and try to make it out on my own, as I use my education and the privilege it grants me to serve my community like I have always intended. But damn: I truly hope it doesn’t always feel like this, like I’m treading water, just trying to stay up for air without sinking further into the deep end.
The brightest spot in my post-Stanford life is my (temporary) job — I’m currently two weeks into a twelve-week internship at the Dallas Morning News’ enterprise desk. As far as entry Real World gigs go, I lucked out big time (and saved a few months on the job application front, bless). I am so thrilled every single time I look at my badge, at my byline printed in small, tight newsprint, at a lede that I spent hours tinkering with till publishable. I’m doing work that I love, my family is a five hour drive rather than 1,500 miles away, and I’ve been given the rare chance to prove myself in my field of choice, buoyed by support and encouragement from mentors and coworkers and loved ones every baby step of the way.
I recognize that the future is looking pretty well-lit. But life is also exhausting and draining in many other ways right now, and I have to recognize this, too.
I am so, so grateful for every single opportunity that I have been so, so lucky to get, because my god — my god, I have had enough blessings to last me a lifetime. I count my future, and its potential, and my ability to choose and define it, as the greatest of all. Honestly, truly, I am so excited.
I am also very, very scared. Which I am told is normal. But I am currently living with the kind of fear that literally paralyzes; I am walking around everyday lightheaded, breathing through this uncomfortably tight weight on my chest, hoping that my existential terror will simmer down into the manageable, conducive kind maybe, like, aaaaany minute now?
I graduated three weeks ago today. I thought that this meant I could calm down a bit. My resting heart rate could resemble something healthy, not an anxiety-riddled tap dance. I — blissfully — naively — tbh stupidly — thought that I might be done with my especially unsustainable, high-maintenance lifestyle habits, all the sleep debt and espresso shots and the existential terror stuff.
Did you know that Stanford only gives you 24 hours after literally getting your diploma in your hands to move out and leave?
And — stay with me, this might sound crazy — but I don’t think that was enough time to process… anything. If you asked me to identify when I last visited my favorite places on campus, when I last trekked up and down the Bay Area, when I last saw the people who defined some of the most formative years of my life — I could not tell you.
I’m afraid that this knot right over my heart is everything I didn’t get to say or feel or do in those 24 hours, and I am afraid I will live with this pressure for a long time. For weeks, months, years. For, well, ever.
It is the fear of everything I’ve been working for — and sacrificing, and self-doubting for, and losing sleep over — not coming true, the fear of having left everything behind in college, the fear that I wasted the last four years like I did those 24 hours.
This is probably really irrational. But it’s late, you know, and that’s when the truth comes out.
Between my daydreams of closet space and an Instagrammable lifestyle, I’m in flux, transitioning between two very different chapters of my life. I’m just trying to somehow cope with the overwhelming change and newfound loneliness I’ve accepted as I chase the possibility of success. I’m just trying to navigate this strange, echoing sensation of loss and these growing pains I’ve contracted in exchange for graduating — an accomplishment I’m still in awe of every day, and that I still wouldn’t trade for anything.
A friend suggested — nay, ordered—that I write this blog post, which I have turned into a straight up essay because that is what I do. And although I have spent far too much of my night writing this, it’s probably been one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a while.
Here’s hoping that anyone who reads this (and makes it all the way down here, wow) finds their own kind of outlet, especially for when, like me, it feels like you can’t even count on the ground beneath you to stand still. This, here, is me offering validity to my own feelings and experiences and dreams with every word I type.
I have to believe that I’ll come up with some damn good headlines someday. It’s hard, and it might take a while, but this is my promise to keep working at it.
Stay tuned, y’all.
Shouts to Brianne Huntsman for this assignment and for being the all-around killer queen that she is. Highly recommended y’all give her some love and a follow; you will not regret it. xA