It’s always a strange feeling to realize that many of my friends have been out of school for at least a year now, while I am still waiting to finally move away from campus. Some of them have already switched jobs twice, some are engaged, some are married and some have taken their year off and are headed back to school. In a way, I am ahead of people my age because I finished grad school a year early, but I also feel like I’m a year behind.
When you’re in school, you always talk about that big and scary “Real World” where you’ll have to find a job and support yourself. Now, suddenly, it’s a reality, and I’m really scared. But that’s normal, right?
Maybe I’m not setting myself up for the smoothest of transitions. I’m in the process of moving to a new place away from my parents but populated by a good number of my college friends. I have an apartment, I have furniture, I have savings, but no job. That’s right, I’m part of the ridiculously high percentage of college grads with liberal arts degrees going off into the real world without a job. And again, I’m really freaking scared.
Everyone keeps telling me how brave I am and how impressed they are with my courage. Hah, great, thanks guys. That makes me feel good about this life choice.
I think this is something everyone who studies English (or any discipline that can be described as a “liberal art”) encounters when they make the choice not to pursue a career in teaching or academia. What are our skills good for? Well, tons of things. I only went to school for five years to learn how to write and communicate well, including multiple genres and forms. I am great at researching and fact checking. I can edit for grammar, style and content. And I am ridiculously creative–something my liberal arts degree encouraged and required. I can analyze pretty much anything within logical bounds and identify what an audience prefers over something else, and why they prefer it. So why then is it so hard to find a job?
I think it has more to do with the state of the job market and how companies are operating in an employers market. When you have the pick of the masses, you’re gonna pick the ones you don’t have to train. It makes sense and I can’t argue with that. It’s frustrating as someone just starting out and hoping someone will take a chance on me, but I do understand.
I just have to keep looking, and looking, and looking…
What is much more frightening about this big move is that for the first time, my life isn’t scripted. When you’re in your school years, it’s one grade after the next, and then college, then grad school and then a job. But what job? Where do you work? What work do you do? There is no set path anymore.
So here I am, wondering if I am making the right decision. Is this the right place to move? Am I applying for the right jobs? Am I going to live in the right neighborhood? Now, everything in my life is subject to second guessing. Now that is scary.
But everything will be fine, right? …right?
I find myself switching back and forth between absolute terror and unbridled excitement. I can always be a stereotype and work in a Starbucks to pay the bills. And if I can’t pay the bills, I will move back home. I am surrounded by friends, I have a supportive family, I’ll be okay. With that in mind, I feel like nothing can go too horribly wrong. And yet, what if this is the first time I fail? What if I use up all my savings and never get a good footing? What if I can’t make it work? Then I move home and I take a different path. And that’s okay. Deep breaths…
I think the hardest part of this whole ordeal will be coming to terms with my unscripted life. Maybe I won’t use the skills I gained in my college years. Or maybe I will. But I can’t pigeon hole myself into one path. That’s not how life works, and it’s really hard to accept that.
Reminds me of writing a book. Sometimes the outline you spent hours planning just doesn’t work and the story veers off in a totally new direction. Hopefully this one has a proper happy ending, or at least some really awesome adventures along the way.