After finishing my undergraduate degree at Temple University in May 2018, I realized I had just spent the last three years of my life working towards a career that I no longer wanted. I made the decision to pursue a degree in Communication (perhaps the broadest degree in the world) and hoped for the best.
I spent my time at Temple looking forward to the day I would move into my tiny one-bedroom apartment in New York City while pursuing my journalism career at some tiny website start-up, taking one journalism internship after another. I finished my bachelor’s degree in just three years. Now it was time to face the real world and I was hit with the realization that journalism was not the direction I wanted to take my career.
Leading up to this, my last semester of college was filled with fear and panic, wondering if I had spent my higher education preparing for a career that was not meant for me (wasting an outrageous amount of money). After graduation, college students are faced to take a leap of faith and enter the real world. As we approach the cliff, far from the safety net of secured and structured education, and jump head first into the unknown, it is impossible to not fear what is next. With no idea what I was heading into, the overwhelming feeling of insecurity and possible failure seemed inevitable. To cross the chasm it takes momentum and trajectory, neither of which graduating college students have.
At the Klein College of Media and Communication graduation ceremony we were asked, like every other graduate before us, to turn our tassels to the left, symbolizing “the start of the rest of our lives.” I confidently grabbed my tassel, begin to turn it, and ripped it clear off my cap. If this moment was about to symbolize the rest of my life, I was screwed. I was about to meet the edge of the cliff.
As I approached this moment, bracing myself for the inescapable first steps of adulthood, my anxiety seemed uncontainable. If only I realized in that moment that every person around me, every single person to walk across that stage before me, felt the exact same way I did, I might have enjoyed the moment more. With panic at full gear, I felt lost, without direction. I thought I had no idea what I was doing but at this point, yet knew I would have figure it out. Coming to this conclusion was painful, feeling like I had failed myself in every aspect.
I wish there was a simple fix-all answer that I could give to my college self. Feeling like I had failed at such a vulnerable point in my life was devastating but it wasn’t until I realized that there was no way I could have failed because I hadn’t even started yet.
I had come to the conclusion that these failures only existed inside my mind. I needed to put myself out there and take risks that may actually lead to real failure but be able to accept that that is life. I jumped in head first by saying no to full time, permanent work right away. I decided to take time to collect my mind by using the summer after college as a learning experience and decided to take another internship post-grad.
This gave me a three month gap to really gather what I wanted to do outside the stresses of school. I was able to really sit down and decide where it was I wanted to live, what I wanted to do, if I wanted to continue my schooling. Life is about taking chances and with that and I realized that more chances I took, the better the outcome could be. Putting aside the common fear of life after college and diving head first off the cliff brought me to exactly where I needed to be. Right here, right now.
I’m only a few months into it, but if I could give advice to my younger self:
1. It’s okay to slow down and figure it out, at least for a little while.
I took the unconventional route of taking another internship after college instead of looking for full-time work right away and honestly, it was the best decision I had made, allowing me to really focus in on what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go.
2. It’s okay to not know everything.
Trying to figure it out is part of the process, sometimes quickly, other times it will take a while. I thought I knew exactly the career I wanted to be in, where I wanted to live, and what I wanted my life to be. I was wrong. And I had no idea how to fix it. Not knowing where you’re going to go next might be part of the journey.
3. It’s okay to have doubts, but not too much.
You will figure it out in time. You will doubt just about everything, but don’t let it control you. I doubted my choice to put off full-time work, the decision to graduate early, my major, and everything in between. If I embraced my decisions instead of doubting them, the ride would have been a lot smoother but where is the fun in that right?
In the words of Steve Jobs from his infamous “Don’t Settle” at Stanford University’s 2005 Commencement Ceremony, speech, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know it when you find it."