So, you want to be a college graduate? Of course, any student is screaming, “Duh!”, in their heads. But the reality is that life after school is like a free-fall without the support of a safety net. And today, I reflect on my experience post-graduation.
THE BIG DAY
Last April, I hurriedly awoke early, prepped myself and drove frantically as I sped my way to the commencement stadium of my HBCU. After being stuck in traffic for 45miniutes to an hour, I made it in time to graduate, barely–only to have arrived literally moments before my college procession (accepting our degrees) began. I’d been looking forward to this moment throughout my last 2 years of College. I was an ideal student—hardworking and willing to be challenged academically and professionally. I was totally excited for this chapter to close, all the while dreading the next step. The truth was that while I’d prepared for the job market early on in my college career, I still wasn’t able to secure a job offer in the field or industry in which I was interested.
FACING THE TRUTH
The only thing I excelled in other than academia was professional rejection. I can’t tell how many rejection letters I’d received after so much seemingly wasted interviewing rounds. An interviewer even told me that I didn’t know myself. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m super forward thinking. I know what I want. On top of that, my previous job experiences weren’t enough to suffice for even an entry-level professional job within my ideal industry. Apparently, you need years of experience to qualify for entry-level positions in the industries for which I’d applied. The offers that I did receive were in the most boring industries ever.
While I wasn’t alone in any way, the truth is that I was really not dealing well with this rejection roller-coaster. What made it worse were all the questions from people around me. “So, what you doing next?” “Going back to school?” I literally wanted to hide every time some well-intentioned person asked. The truth was I didn’t know. I’ve always been a planner. I’d planned out my life’s timeline by the time I was about 14/15. I mean, I had some ambitious, lofty dreams. To give you a clue inside my head, I had a dream of gracing the cover of Seventeen magazine by the time I was 17 years old. Obviously, that has never happened, but I continued to set super high goals for myself. Despite almost every one of my major life goals being absolute failure (from those self-imposed benchmarks) throughout puberty, I figured that my life would magically come together by the time I graduated college.
Compared to my parents, I am an unconventional and totally weird child. I’m a creator. Creativity is my thing. They realized I was different from the rest of our bunch when they noted that I hated sport and the outdoors. My passions for people, fashion design, footwear (OBVIOUSLY), marketing strategy and the arts have made it that much harder to “arrive” professionally.
I have absolutely no “insider” connections with creative professionals. So, after many many rejection letters for the positions I desired, I came to the conclusion that I would have to take a chance of me and create the life I wanted. No one is going to just help me arrive at the table. No, I’m going to have to bring my own folding chair right up to that conference myself. Currently, that’s what I’ve been doing–preparing myself for my seat at the table. I’m taking this time to work to secure the bag (of course) but also to learn and really study the industries in which interest me, seeking opportunities for me to create. Yeah, it’s scary and uncomfortable but also super exciting. Stay tuned for what’s next to come!
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
#1. Accepting God’s Will
While I was frustrated with God, I’ve learned to accept His will for my life. You know when they say, “Be careful what you pray for.”? Well, I had prayed for God’s Will despite my own plans a while ago. And BOY, has that been a challenging experience. While He has seemed to close every door that I’ve tried to open myself, he’s been faithful in guiding me to explore my true passions and not just my “practical” career plans. In fact, my career plans were what I adopted because I believed that my dreams weren’t really within reach.
#2. Failure is only when you stop trying
I’ve been afraid of failure for a long time. So much so, that I’ve completely denied myself opportunities to be active in my passions as a creator because I didn’t want people (or my family) to see me fail. When people set such high expectations for your abilities, it can cause so much self-doubt and fear of misstep.
At this point in my life, I realize that failures in life are inevitable. However, they only last for a season. My goal now is to fail fast and learn from my mistakes even faster.
#3. My dreams and passions matter
In part, my fear of failure stems from Mommy and Daddy issues.
I’ve been afraid to disappoint my parents. My parents are super educated, driven entrepreneurs. For my siblings and I, they created a worth-while life of love, support, and value-based guidance. Like all parents, mine dreamt very detailed, ambitious dreams for my siblings and me.
While I acknowledge that all parents have hopes for their child’s future, I realize that the biggest disappointments that I could ever incur would be a “What if”. I don’t ever want think one day, “What if I would’ve…
started started that business,
gone to school for my passion,
moved to that City, OR
lived in that foreign country.
I’ve taken on many of their fears of me being financially unstable or denied opportunities because of my education. Throughout my life, I’ve allowed that fear of disappointment to dictate my life choices–always standing on the edge of the life pool.
Not anymore. I deserve to live my life according to God’s will and purpose not anyone else’s expectations. I will do my best to achieve all of my life goals. I will live a fulfilled life of freedom to pursue my passions. I want dive into life. And because of my parent’s instruction, I know that I’m equipped to swim against the currents of life, despite the fact that I’m figuring it out day by day.
I want to hear from you. What was your college graduation experience like? Upon graduation, did life fall in or out of place for you? How are you navigating your experience post-graduation? What have been your biggest lessons learned?