“It’s funny to look back and see how much you’ve grown, even over the course of one short year. The things you thought were impossible and you would never survive, somehow you did.”
When I think of those words, I think about how the month of May is full of graduations, Mother’s Day celebrations, engagements and baby showers, and it is also a month for me to celebrate the fact that I also graduated college one year ago.
I remember starting that final semester at SIU feeling a mix of emotions, mostly nervous because I didn’t know what the hell I had in store after I crossed the stage on May 13th of last year. I wrote a LOT about my feelings toward senior year, starting with some affirmations, on to encouraging words for me and my fellow classmates, to feeling as if I was a complete failure for not knowing exactly what my next move was, even though only a couple weeks had passed since I crossed the stage.
Needless to say, I was a mess.
I couldn’t understand how or why I was feeling so many emotions at once and it drove me crazy!
So one day I remember being outside a bar venting to someone about how stagnant and frustrated I was still being “stuck” in Carbondale and the next day I packed a few things and moved back to Chicago.
I don’t regret anything but I do NOT advise leaving your college town BEFORE your lease is up. Unless you have a job or internship. I had neither and while I am GRATEFUL that I had some friends who allowed me in their space last year, bouncing from house to house is not cute. I know now that waiting until August to leave wouldn’t have killed me.
However, a mixture of being impulsive as fuck + broke as fuck had me feeling like I just HAD to move. In reality, all I really needed to do was just relax.
Relax because I worked hard as fuck to get my degree.
Relax because not doing so brought more anxiety.
Relax because I simply deserved to.
Something I noticed is that most of us college grads have a hard time reveling in our moments often. All summer I searched for the why behind that feeling and realized that it is because we are so used to the routine of constantly doing SOMETHING. The idea of doing nothing or simply having nothing to do scares us. So in reality, I was SCARED this time last year. My impulsiveness mixed with my fear wouldn’t allow me to relax and I just had to figure out what was next for me.
When I popped back into Chicago, the irony is that I immediately felt out of place here as well. Being gone for 5 years and not coming home longer than two weeks in a summer will do it to you. I felt even crazier that while I felt “stagnant” in Carbondale I felt so lost in Chicago. I began to wonder would I ever truly feel satisfied? That question was on my mind a lot for the past year.
As I searched for an answer, I had to find a job because unlike Carbondale, Chicago living is NOT cheap. Everything costs from getting around to buying groceries and I hated depending on others for anything. I utilized my network and found a couple jobs through this program that didn’t have shit to do with what I got my degree in, but hey it was something. Desperation will do that to you, but even in the midst of being underpaid, those jobs helped me learn a lot about flexibility. Flexibility was a skill that I needed for my current job and it honestly made me learn patience. I was always a gal that liked to do things on her own time in her own way. I haven’t completely grown out of the habit BUT I’ve definitely gotten used to being flexible.
The summer really got rough around mid-July. My peace was constantly disrupted due to a number of circumstances and I just felt so lost. Of course, I had happy moments here and there but the bad outweighed the good to me. I’ve always been a person who tried to find small pieces of happiness and hold on to them, but last year I just couldn’t. There were many times I felt like literally dying and I foolishly didn’t reach out to get some help on that. Sometimes, when we are going through it we feel that it is best to just deal with things alone, instead of giving people the chance to be there for us.
Over the past year, I’ve learned that attitude certainly determines the outcome of things. We may not be able to control WHAT happens to us but we can control HOW we REACT to those things. I knew that in order for me to feel sane again, I needed to change my mindset.
While most people summers appeared to be lit and carefree as fuck, I was simply on a quest to try and get my shit together. I needed to step outside my comfort zone. I needed a change of scenery. I needed something positive to redirect my energy. I interviewed for a job that still doesn’t fit my degree but it’s one of my interests: working with children. Got the job and started training for that in August.
August was a month of new beginnings. I wanted to give up before I even started but ironically, it was my mother who gave me the advice not to. Pressing forward was a mindset that I developed in undergrad, but got revamped when I left. It meant that I wasn’t allowed to give up on myself. It meant that I wasn’t allowed to stay down for too long. So with this new and improved attitude, shit started looking up for me.
Eventually, I found stable housing.
Eventually, I got a job that I liked coming to most days.
Eventually, I started coming back around my friends.
I even adapted back to Chicago.
Shit was and is by no means perfect. But it’s definitely not the worst of the worst now that I think about it.
Recently, I made a trip back to Carbondale to celebrate yet another graduation. If you know me, you know I love to celebrate other people and I love imprinting my wisdom and motivation onto people. I found myself doing that a lot this past weekend, and one guy even came up to me while we were out to ask for some advice.
Not to be elitist, but college kids are a subgroup that I hold near and dear to my heart because I’ve BEEN through the struggle. I’m not sure if white folks go through as many trials and tribulations as Black college students but I’m so proud of us because I know the struggle on some level.
Many of you reading this that have just graduated will begin or have already begun to feel all of the things I’ve felt this past year and then some. There is no best way to prepare for the direction that your life is about to change. There is no piece of advice that I can give you besides buckle up. College was a ride, but sometimes the real world can be a bigger bitch.
I know you’re probably tired of hearing about the real world, but ever since my visit to Carbondale this weekend, I realized just how much of a box college towns can be. Everything is simple and carefree compared to moving to another city.
Nevertheless, the best thing I’ve realized is that change is inevitable. No matter how you may try to avoid it, it HAS to happen to make you a better you.
Surviving the first year of college has been no joke, but if I can say 1 thing (okay, really 3 things) I would say:
Enjoy Your Moment
You just graduated. I’m sure you went through hell and back to get your degree so just enjoy the fact that you finished — whatever that looks like for you. It may be scary not to have a set routine of class, work, turn up, etc anymore but enjoy your moment. You worked hard for it, you did enough and you deserve to relax now.
Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
I have friends that immediately went into their careers with high paying salaries. They worked hella hard to land their positions but make no mistake about it — they still had to make sacrifices that I am not necessarily built for. I say that to say, comparing ourselves to others is pointless because when the smoke and mirrors clear, we have to realize that everyone is on their own path to success. Unless you are willing to go through the same ups and downs as the next person, stay in your lane and manifest your own skillsets and talents.
Your job after undergrad may not be ideal or even what you got your degree in, but it must be intentional. Everything from this point forward must be a stepping stone to your ultimate goal — whatever that may be. Making moves out of desperation or fear happens to the best of us, but don’t make those actions a permanent thing. As I said, one of my worst character traits is that I am impulsive, but learning to be intentional has brought much more peace in my life.
This Is All Normal — And You’re Not Alone
Still feeling lost, dazed, and/or confused? That’s cool too. Understand this though: you’re not alone. The funny part about adulting is that we all just wake up every day and try to figure it the fuck out. No matter how good shit may look on social media, we are all just winging it! Me personally, I often share my thoughts and feelings because I don’t want others to feel like they are alone going through this. Reach out to your peers and create that safe space with one another to decompress what’s going on. You’ll need that support more than ever after college, trust me.
So now that it is one year later, I can honestly say that I am at peace. I fight daily for it and try my hardest to maintain it. I have grown in ways that I never imagined and I feel myself getting wiser by the day. I am at peace because I didn’t give up on myself when I know I really wanted to. I am at peace because I know that my bounce back game is strong. I am at peace because I am peace. I don’t know everything but I do know that regardless of how you feel NOW, shit really does eventually get better.
Congrats to the class of 2018. I wish you peace, blessings, and clarity on your journey. ♥