On May 15, 2016 I graduated from college with a B.A. in English and four years worth of being deprived of good rice. In the months leading up to my graduation, leaving was the only thing I could think about. I knew that I would come to miss my time at college but I was so unbelievably depressed for the entire semester, leaving seemed like the best and only solution. I tried desperately to split myself in half, to commit half of myself to be present at school and the other half to lean towards the future, not wanting to land on my ass when I graduated. I was not successful.
I have always been a crier. It’s my go to emotion. When I’m happy I cry, when I’m sad I cry, when I’m angry I cry and even when I’m about to go in on a slice of pizza I shed a few tears over how lucky I am to be in that moment. And I cried a lot in my last semester but nothing could compare to the way I cried a few hours after my graduation when I stared into my empty dorm room. The day had started with me excitingly marching to my chair, trying not to fall asleep as people who I didn’t even know were Seniors marched up to get their degrees and me constantly turning to my friend next to me saying, “Holy shit, we’re graduating.” It had been filled with being shuffled along by my family, taking pictures and never really processing that four of the most formative years of my life had just come to an end.
The packing up of my room had been another disaster, my father and I never being able to have the same standards when it came to what was packed and not packed. I was frantically packing up the last parts of my room all alone, having sent my father and brother on their way home with half of my stuff while my Uncle waited patiently for me outside, sending me encouraging messages to let me know that I could take my time.
It wasn’t until it was all packed that it hit me. I stared at the emptiness and completely lost it, the huge crocodile tears that I have been famous for since I was a child rolling down my face as I walked away from the room that I had called home for the past year and the house that had become my safe haven for the past four. This sadness was only made worse when I had to say bye to the group of friends who had also easily become my family and to my best friend, someone who had witnessed my tears so many times but still wiped my face and told me that they loved me. It was the tears in their eyes that finally hit me and let me know, this was an ending and a very fucking terrifying beginning.
With all that sadness, I am one of the fortunate ones who was able to secure a paid internship right after graduation. While it’s not a permanent position and I went to work a week after graduation, it’s a way for me to gain experience and even more importantly money. I’ve done the smart thing as some people call it. I’m saving money, I’m making plans for the future and yet somehow everything still feels…stuck. And yes, I know it’s completely normal for someone who just graduated to feel stagnant but there is a particular confusion that comes with being considered an adult but also not being considered one at the same time.
As the youngest child, I grew up being the baby and still very much am. I’ve been fortunate enough to have supportive parents, a great brother and great family and friends who have always cheered me on, something I have learned not to take for granted. Countless people who have watched me grow up and who now watch me live out my life on social media, occasionally making comments on my post that show just how much they don’t really know the person I am now. And that is what I have come to struggle with in this past month. The idea of myself that everyone has had of me and the idea of myself that I have let them have and felt compelled to fulfill. For any millennial it’s common for people to tell us what they think we’re good at, what they think we should be doing and what they think about how we’re choosing to spend our time, our money, and our lives in general. And I appreciate it, it feels bratty to complain about people wanting to support you or give you advice, even if a lot of that advice comes without any prompt.
But as I learned from other friends who sometimes just can’t stand my optimism, not everything needs a response. Sometimes you want to complain just to complain and sometimes even when you know that there are hundreds of people who feel similar to you, you want to feel like you’re the only one going through it. In this past month I have received a lot of great advice, even though most of it has been unsolicited, and through that advice and my own self-reflection here are a few things I’ve learned and re-affirmed for myself:
- It’s really easy for men, especially white men to tell you to “follow your dreams.”
- I look really good in a collared shirt and loafers.
- The world is really scary.
- Many people will give me advice that worked for them while not acknowledging that we walk through the world in very different ways.
- There is no easy way to deal with your anxiety in the work place.
- Anxiety doesn’t just disappear when you change your location.
- The job market is very different from when most of the people who are giving you advice last entered it.
- Every single piece of advice is valid but not always useful and encouraging.
- I know I’m capable. I know I’m smart and badass. But also let me complain for just a moment.
- Apparently at business lunches you’re supposed to leave a little bit of food on your plate…this is something I am having great difficulty with.
- And $18 salad is apparently very normal for a business lunch. A salad.
- It now makes sense to me why in all those movies and tv shows that people are having a drink right when they get home from work.
- I am not ready for the world but it is also not ready for me.
In this last month a lot of my optimism has been tested as I’ve allowed myself to get lost in my mind all to often and end up getting stuck there. And even though I’m missing my friends as if I were missing part of my own heart I know I’ll be okay.
….but also…fuck that. I’m terrified.