Throughout my four years of college, I had a vague idea of what would come next. Job searching was certainly at the forefront, dashed with hopes and dreams, accompanied by unrealistic expectations. Yet I let myself indulge in my fantasies, envisioning a fairytale life after years of hard work, trials and tribulations. I truly lived in a bubble, thinking I would land a job immediately following a month’s hiatus from the working world, a month that would lead to getting me where I needed to go.
Needless to say, that wasn’t what happened.
I took a month off following my college graduation, but I didn’t get the job I needed following my lull. In fact, I didn’t get any job.
I spent my month off in rural Idaho with my mom and some other family, and then took off for the big city. I am originally from the Seattle area; however, I spent my high school years in Idaho and moved on to Arizona for university. I missed Seattle and the family I had there, and my foremost intention was to begin my career there. I decided to move in with a relative whom I didn’t know well and had been warned against living with, yet I wanted to give the relationship another try and hoped for the best.
I immediately applied to jobs and internships. Not all at once, but gradually so. I entered the game filled with motivation and excitement, feeling all too ready and eager to start the chapter of my life that would be completely me. No authority figures telling me what to do, no college admissions or advisory teams telling me where I could go to school or what I had to take to graduate. For years, I felt like I had no control over what happened to me. Now I thought I finally had a grasp on my own life.
The wiser lens of hindsight makes me look back and cringe at my own naiveté.
I had more choices, but I still couldn’t control what happened to me. At the time, I didn’t realize that. I only fought against my circumstances harder, envisioning alternate events and seeing them as reality. I resorted to escapism, where my fantasies were infiltrated and ultimately obliterated by actual reality. For four months straight, I fell into a self-destructive pattern without realizing it.
And the hits kept on coming.
I was running out of money. I had been told again and again in employer responses that I was not experienced enough, and they had moved on to someone else. My relationship was quickly becoming very strained with my relative, and I practically lived in my car to avoid her toxicity and have a moment of peace. I didn’t eat much, and my sleep was either put off by insomnia or interrupted by nightmares. I suffered from anxiety and high levels of stress; I often felt sick and fell terribly ill on some occasions. I fell into depression, something I had already been prone to from difficult teenage years. I started taking the job rejections personally. Instead of reading “not experienced enough” in their responses, I began reading “not good enough.” I heard it reverberating through my head as my relative repeatedly condescended me, telling me the same thing over and over again. I started to believe it. And I started taking my rejections in Seattle as a sign that I should try somewhere else.
But as I searched elsewhere, the more impossible it became. I had no money to go anywhere, and no job offers. I felt trapped. I felt like I was drowning in my own despair, becoming so deeply, inexplicably, hopelessly lost.
I had never felt lost before; I always knew what would come next. Not knowing this time around scared the life out of me, and I became a zombie. I didn’t know how to function or what the next step would be.
Nonetheless, I still tried. I connected with alumni in Seattle that were wonderful and helpful, and I tried heeding their advice. Unfortunately, it was getting me nowhere fast. I was desperate to move out and live in a shoebox if I had to, but Seattle rent isn’t exactly cheap. I was determined to start my own life and have people stop treating me like a kid, like I was nothing, or like I wasn’t smart or good enough. Not everyone did this, but the few that did were slowly but surely eating away at my insides. And I let them, all the while adding my own negative thoughts to the pile.
Lost and depressed, my motivation only dwindled. I wanted to be better, I wanted to be somebody and I started making a list of regrets. Why hadn’t I started writing for my college newspaper sooner? Maybe I’d have more experience. Why hadn’t I joined the clubs I’d planned on joining? Why hadn’t I just gone to Los Angeles, faced my fears and started my dream career in the film and television industry? Why hadn’t I looked for jobs while still in college? Had I really been too busy, or was I just scared?
The regrets only piled on, and I felt useless and listless. I became very sensitive about anything related to job hunting, so I avoided the topic. People trying to help suggested working for UPS or as a waitress, but that only devastated me further. Had I really worked so hard for a college degree just to start out in these kinds of jobs, none of which had anything to do with my dreams? I never expected to be a famous screenwriter or anything like that overnight, but I at least hoped to be getting coffee for people on set or working as a secretary at Warner Bros., something of the like.
Then came the wake-up call I desperately needed.
I had a huge fight with my relative that led to me packing my stuff and moving out that same day. I threw everything I owned in my car and took off. I cried as I drove, trying to concentrate in the dark, but having a hard time doing so. I cried for about a half hour when I was out of radio signal and had no music to distract me, but it wasn’t just because of the fight. It was because of everything: How much of a failure I’d become, how I’d seen the true person my relative was, how I painfully reviewed everything I could’ve done to avoid such a horrific fight and what I was going to do now that I’d lost everything—or so it felt that way.
It was then that I began to change.
I wound up with my mom in Idaho again. Deciding I needed to create my own experience and display more of my work, I began putting myself to the test. I embraced Instagram as a business tool, establishing a professional writing account and becoming an “Instapoet.” I joined a Mastermind class led by the talented Carly Hartman, in which I’d learn how to monetize the blog that I wanted to create, as well as how to build a website. I reached out to more of my connections from school who work or otherwise have connections in the film and television industry, asking for advice and networking opportunities. I’m working on a screenplay now to send to one of my contacts for review. I’m helping my friends with their essays and keeping my writing skills sharp, all the while finding purpose in the act of helping others. I’m no longer isolating myself; I’m reaching out to my friends more and have found so much healing and love there as they are there for me just as I strive to be for them. I’m learning to change my reactions regarding insults to circumstances, learning how to be more positive about life in general. It’s a process that certainly doesn’t come without its hard days, but it’s transforming me into the person that I want to be.
I feel better about myself as a human being. Instead of telling myself I am failing, I tell myself I am trying, and I put those words into reality by keeping up my new Instapoet account, starting a blog and moving out of my comfort zone. I’m creating my own experience to place upon my resumé and proving the naysayers wrong. I’m turning into a better person and I’m happier and more peaceful because of it.
As my career moves forward now, I feel closer to my goals more so than I ever did. And every day is a success. Despite everything, I am still here, and I am okay. I am getting closer to Los Angeles; ergo, closer to my dreams. I have learned to “grasp at straws,” which is my term for reaching out to people or opportunities that may or may not work out—it’s just a matter of trying and seeing what happens. Some things have worked, and some haven’t, but the things that have, have taught me so much.
I can’t control what happens to me, but I can control how I react and what I do afterwards. I can only try harder, accept and move on to better things. Chances are, if something didn’t work out, it was for a good reason. I’ve learned to embrace God that way; He is looking out for me just as he does everyone, and if I was rejected from something, it’s only for something better to come along. That’s when healing comes in; and in my case, healing means seeing the good in the bad experiences. Like spending time with other relatives, meeting the people I did or having some cool experiences in Seattle. It wasn’t all bad. But in the end, my path was just meant to lead elsewhere.
I’m still scared, but sometimes that’s a good thing. The more I face my fears, the braver I feel. The braver I am, the more likely I will be to take chances I never would have taken otherwise. If they say you need more experience, ask them what kind of experience. Respectfully, of course. Be brave and be bold. Who knows? It could lead to some of the best things to ever happen to you.
Post-college life is hard. It’s like you have to relearn everything all over again. I had to learn to be street smart, and find out the hard way who my true cheerleaders were and who would leave me in the dust. I had to figure out what I really wanted and what my purpose was for the first time, and map out a general idea of the life I really wanted to live. So now, I work hard for that life. I work hard to be a better person. And I keep my mind open to all possibilities. Until then, I enjoy the now. And when I reach my goals, I’ll appreciate the experiences I went through to get there even more.
It’s only a matter of when. Not if.
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