Welcome to the Real World
A letter to all post-grads around the world…
I remember when I wanted to be a pop star. That was when I was eight-years-old. I used to write song lyrics and sing them aloud in my bedroom, the only audience members being the dozens of Beanie Babies I owned at the time. However, society told me that my chances were slim to none.
In middle school, I wanted to be an author. I started writing novels and jotting down plot descriptions and ideas every chance that I could find. Being a pop star suddenly left my mind, as if it had evaporated into thin air. At least the writing bit still remained. But to be a professional author, I was told it was such a rarity that I may as well just throw in the towel.
Fast forward to a few years later when I was in my senior year of high school: I had to choose what I actually wanted to be, and I can honestly say that not one realistic thing came to my mind. I still loved to write, and I knew that I could in some way incorporate that into my choice of major, but it was the “realistic” part of it all that stumped me. Though no one ever explicitly told me to my face that what I wanted was stupid or never going to happen, the stereotype still existed, and it hovered over me throughout my entire senior year.
A few suggestions for a major were thrown my way, such as Marketing, Communications, and even Accounting. Trust me when I say this: there is absolutely nothing wrong with these majors (or any other majors for that matter). Were they occupations that I saw myself in? No. They were the furthest things from my adolescent aspirations, so I really didn’t give them much of a second thought.
It wasn’t until I was talking with one of my high school English teachers that I decided what exactly it was that I was going to be. This teacher of mine — one of my absolute favorites — was someone who I aspired to be like. So as I stood in her classroom, discussing the anguish of choosing something to focus on for the rest of my life, she explained to me why I would make such a good English teacher (just like her). I love to learn, I love to write and read, I enjoy school and working with others, etc. The list could really go on and on. The point is that I had found a major. I had an actual thing that I wanted to be and it was a “real” job. It had purpose, money, and co-workers. Life felt good.
That is until I graduated college.
I spent four years studying both Education and English — what I believed to be the best of both worlds. Believe me, it was a wonderful time! I truly loved college, my classes, and everything that I was training myself to become. Granted, I still encountered a few people here and there who tried to tell me that what I wanted to be was “unrealistic.”
“You won’t make any money teaching.” — some ignorant person
“You want to teach?!?! Ha! Good luck with that!” — some annoying person
“Education majors do nothing. They have it so easy.” — some ignorant, annoying person
So what exactly do I mean when I say that life felt good up until I graduated from college? Well, for starters, I entered what can only be referred to as the Real World.
By the end of my four years, I was prepared to graduate and become this amazing teacher with a job right out of college who thrived in life because she was enjoying her 20’s and had no real worries in the world. Raise your hand if someone told you that’s what would happen and you later found out that’s in no way the case. After college, I had to leave all of my friends and everything that had become so familiar to me, I had no money, and I had no job. Enjoying my 20's was not even on my radar.
No one in college truly prepares you for the rejections and the heartaches. (Don’t you wish they would’ve had a class like that offered every semester?). You’re given all of these tools to succeed — and they definitely do work, earlier for some rather than others — but you aren’t generally given the tools to fail. You aren’t told that life after college is going to be really, really hard. Even for the people who come out looking like rockstars, life likes to throw obstacles every now and then. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.
What I think about the most as I sit here and write this — still without any job — is how I have completely let the fact that I don’t have a job control my life. I am not my happy-go-lucky self and I am overly stressed. I followed all the rules — attended college, held leadership roles, graduated with two degrees, got good recommendations, and applied for many jobs. Just like when I was a little girl who dreamed of becoming a pop star, I am still being told (or sometimes not told, rather outright ignored) over and over again that I need more experience, or that I am really good but not good enough, but I am letting those experiences dictate my existence.
Forgetting for a moment the fact that this one factor in my life is not currently going as planned, I need to remember that I am still me. I am still that same girl who took on four years of college, if not only a little wiser. Heck, I am still that eight-year-old girl who sang to her Beanie Babies. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have the perfect job and lifestyle that we forget about life in general — the life that we are supposed to be living and enjoying. Why shouldn’t life be good after college? Yes, I still should be focused on being a teacher and getting an actual job, and I am going to be, but I should also be focused on being a good person. Being a good me.
You’re never too old to be what you want to be (and that does not have to entail what you do for a living). We do not have to define ourselves based upon the jobs that we have. We choose how to define ourselves. Sure, life as a post-grad has been a roller coaster ride of emotions, but it’s supposed to be. Life is messy, and you’re thrown on the roller coaster no matter what, so why not enjoy the ride? The Real World is filled with a lot of years — a lot of years for downs, but just as many (if not more!) for ups. I may not have all the answers, but I do know that I have a lot to look forward to.
Post-grads, welcome to the Real World — a place that is what you make of it.