Post-Grad life lesson #1 : Embrace the gray areas.

Have you ever been happily driving down the road, jamming out to a new Spotify playlist, windows down, gas tank full… only to realize you’ve been driving in the wrong direction and have to turn around?

Or maybe you set a goal for yourself. You wanted to lose 15–20 pounds and pictured your future skinny self, in a happy relationship, employed, rocking life. You lost the weight. You posted that saucy selfie on your Facebook timeline on #transformationtuesday. But hey wait…your significant other is AWOL and your email inbox includes 20 Facebook game notifications and 0 responses to job applications you’ve sent.

The whole picture wasn’t painted for you.

This is where the gray area comes in.

Most of us (like myself) grew up going through elementary school, then high school and possibly college. We spent our lives chasing the straight A honor roll, that job promotion, or that letter in the mail letting us know we made the Dean’s List. We thrive on accomplishments, benchmarks, and we’re taught to climb that oh-so reliable ladder of success. Go to school, get a good job, make money, get married = happy life.

Something is missing. Where’s the gray area?

How did Harrison Ford land the role of Hans Solo? Struggling to make money through acting he worked as a part time carpenter and landed a chance building cabinets for George Lucas.

Ever heard of Harry Potter? (Duh.) Did you know that the author J. K. Rowling saw herself as a failure seven years after graduating university, was unemployed, divorced, and clinically depressed before writing Harry Potter and becoming a multi-millionaire?

Fun fact. Ashton Kutcher studied engineering at the University of Iowa and worked as a Cereal Sweeper at the General Mills plant before being approached by a modeling talent scout at a bar, kick-starting his career.

So what? Am I saying that success only happens by chance? No.

My point is that, life doesn’t always happens in a logical order. There isn’t always a right or a wrong. There isn’t always a black or white. Life is one big gray area. There is no 1–2–3–4–5 like we grow up learning and as a recent college graduate, that can be a tough pill to swallow.

I made straight A’s in elementary school except for one B in elementary school (third grade to be exact and it was devastating). I was the Valedictorian of my high school. I graduated college with a 3.98 GPA and in the top 3% of the journalism school. I was given tasks and I successfully completed them, yet here I am in a swirling pool of recent grads searching for that entry level position to kick-start my career and most of the employers don’t even look at my GPA.

I always assumed that when I’d graduate from college, I’d have my ducks in a row and know exactly what I was doing with my life. Truth is, I graduated but I still don’t know. I have a lot of conflicting interests and talents. I love playing guitar and singing. Should I hit the road, invest in some music equipment and move to Nashville? I love art, drawing, and painting. Should I buy a ton of art supplies, set up camp and try to sell my art downtown? I’m interested in computers. Should I pay for an online code school? I love health and fitness. Should I try to become a personal trainer?

These are the kind of thoughts running through my head and I know I’m not the only one. Everyone has unique interests and I don’t think anyone is born to accomplish one specific task or do one specific job.

So now what? I personally have not had my “ah-ha moment” yet and I’m not saying that waiting for something to happen is the solution.

What I have learned is that if you work hard, keep your foot in the door, pursue your interests, and spend your time on activities that you value, something good will come of it. I’m not going to give up and I’m not going to let a few “We appreciate your interest, however…” emails stop me from pursuing a career in the creative industry. I’m going to take each failure as a learning experience and move on.

Insert corny “the only failure is giving up” quote here.

It’s scary to think that there’s no black or white, there’s no guarantee in life, and most of the time there is no right answer. Plot twist- there are usually ten different solutions to the problem, not one. When one door closes another opens? More like- when one door closes, three open, two others close, one is half open, and the other one is locked but your boss’s friend has the key.

But hey, what fun would life be if there were no twists and turns and it was a one way street? Instead of being disappointed that there is no step-by-step guide to success, I’m pretty happy that there are so many options and possibilities out there. I’m going to embrace the gray area.