Another graduation season is here. Whether it’s college graduation, high school graduation, or just an event celebrating moving from fourth grade to fifth grade, it’s the time of year where kids typically end one chapter and start another. That’s how I saw my college graduation two years ago. What I didn’t know then was that just a year after finishing school, I would find myself toe-to-toe with one of my worst fears.
When I graduated, I had my own idea of what I wanted my life to look like in a year’s time. I had a draft of a book finished at that point, so I figured I’d have my first book ready for publication by May of 2015. If luck was on my side, I’d also be working at a publishing company—or at least something involving books—out of state, living in my own apartment in a big city. Big dreams, right? I didn’t think my own job and apartment far from home or being ready to get published was too much to ask for at the time.
But I was wrong.
Once I started applying for jobs at libraries and publishing companies, I realized that finding work in my passion was an uphill battle. I had no experience in publishing and had only worked at the school library for a year, yet a lot of the places I looked at asked for five years. So I had to broaden my horizons in order to find any work that could help me pay off student loans. It wasn’t until six months after graduation where I finally found work…as a temp at a bank.
Things just continued to go from bad to worse. Even with a job, I didn’t have the money for my own place, so I had to live with my parents. While I’m still grateful to them for letting me live there while I figured things out, I also felt embarrassed about being a twenty-something living with my parents. And on top of that, the more I tried to work on my book the less invested I was. Part of me knew I had to drop the project, but then that would mean starting all over from scratch if I wanted to be an author. My job at the bank did nothing to help. The nicest phrase I can use to describe the first five months are “culture shock,” because the work environment and the school environment are so different. Each day I’d walk in surrounded by restless dread, and I’d come home every night feeling mentally drained.
As the seasons passed I felt so much anger building up inside me—not just at life, but at myself too. Only a year after graduation, and I failed. This wasn’t like failing a test or failing to do a chore. No, this was much more personal. I knew who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, and I was moving backwards. It was like the Mirror of Erised was stuck in my head, and I felt doomed to spend the rest of my life staring at something I wanted but would never get to touch.
Then May came by, and when I thought things wouldn’t get worse, they did. In that first year out of school, I’d been experiencing health issues. These issues weren’t anything I wasn’t used to, so I shrugged it off and figured my medications would help. But they didn’t. After a medical procedure in April, the doctor decided my medicine wasn’t working and put me on something else. But for the next month, my health got worse until I was dehydrated. So after another medical procedure, I was sent to the hospital for three days.
Stuck in a hospital, weak and dehydrated. Stuck with my parents, without the means of standing on my own. Stuck with a job I didn’t want but needed. Stuck with the prospect of scrapping a book I’d worked on for nearly six years and having to start over.
That was my life one year after school.
I can’t say how long it took for my body and mind to calm down. And I don’t know what it was that helped me get back on track. Thankfully, my recovery time included a week at the beach, taking a break from life. And while enjoying the promise of summer sunshine, I got the chance to look at my life from a different perspective. I got sick, but I was getting better. I needed to scrap my old book and start a new one, but the more I thought about the new project the more excited I felt about it. I’d have to stay at the bank (the temp job turned into a permanent one), but it’d help me pay off bills and maybe teach me things about finances I couldn’t figure out before. I didn’t have my own place, but that didn’t mean I never would.
The second year after graduation turned out better than the first. I still have a lot to figure out, and I know there may be more obstacles in the road ahead. But no matter what happens next, I know I’ll be okay.
Photo source: http://eship.dyson.cornell.edu/blog/2016/02/19/the-value-of-failure/