I’ve been here before, this section of my life. I’ve been this girl, I’ve played this part, and I know these lines. So for something that know so well, why does it still freak me out so badly?
More than two years ago, I graduated from college with the same sense of panic. That knot of worry so deep that every casual question from friends and family became a probing stab into the very purpose of my life.
“What are you doing?”
“What’s your next step?”
“Where do you see yourself headed?”
Finding a way to pay the rent felt way too serious.
In the months when I found myself counting down to my graduation, these questions looped through my own mind, getting louder each day. While my friends prepared for internships, graduate school, and the various entry-level jobs they’d acquired, I still sat in front of my laptop wondering where to start. I had treated my undergrad years as a means to an end. College wasn’t career prep; it was a check mark on my resume. It wasn’t until I had graduation staring me in the face that it even occurred to me that I’d wasted much of my very important “figure myself out” time.
Scanning through the internet, looking for a job, a sign, or even a clue, I found one site in particular that caught my eye: AmeriCorps.gov. It took me all of twelve seconds to fall in love with the idea of AmeriCorps NCCC; a mobile, team-based national service program that would allow me to travel the country, do volunteer work, and meet amazing people. I was so in. After an application longer than most of my college apps, and three nail-biting months of waiting to hear back that is.
Then I was off. Off to build trails in national parks and houses in New Orleans. Off to figure out how to feed ten people on $45 a day. And most importantly, off to meet a uniquely unforgettable cast of people who would slowly but continually change my life. I will detail several of my adventures in later posts.
But here I am again. After completing yet another graduation ceremony, I am back in panic mode answering the same round of firing squad questions that came at me two years ago. It seems like things haven’t changed at all.
But somehow they have.
For one thing, I’m two years older. That doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but with careful review I’ve realized that at the very least I learned a few things in those years:
- Every experience is worth the experience – Even the things that sucked when I was going through them were worth it for the knowledge I gained about myself.
- I must accept that I can’t please everyone, or die trying – I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life and it has never come to bite me in the ass more than these past two years. Living and working with the same ten people while keeping them all happy is absolutely, hands down, 100 percent not possible. I accept that now.
- I’ll never stop trying to find my purpose–There will always be a part of me that yearns for definition, that interprets questions like “what’s your next step?” as “what is your life’s passion?” Hopefully, as time goes on I can tone down the anxiety associated with that question and learn to see it as encouragement to explore my options.
Now as you may notice, these are not the end all be all of life lessons, but for me parsing out what the last two years has meant to me and what I have learned from it will be an important part of figuring out that crucial next step. Perhaps it will even help me figure out how to improve my resume.
Future posts from me will most likely feature flashbacks from my time in AmeriCorps, my time in college, and
maybe even a little bit of that good old high school drama, all for the purpose of figuring out who I am now and what I want (and am qualified) to do.