Dear College Graduate

I graduated from college two years ago, and yet as I begin to see the social media chatter of those who are finishing up themselves, the emotions I was feeling at that time feel close by. Even writing this, I can feel the excitement again–but mostly, the overwhelming uncertainty. From what I know now, if I could have given myself a letter that night, here’s what I would say.

Photo Credit: Flickr User tajkd, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User tajkd, Creative Commons

Dear college graduate,

First of all, congrats! You made it! All that homework and studying and sleep lost has led up to this…a funny hat, a walk across a stage, and a pretty little piece of paper with your name on it.

Second, I’ll warn you right away: there aren’t any perfect words for a time like this. I could tell you to chase your dreams and to not let anything get you down, but those are vague, unhelpful sentiments. So let me tell you a few things I wish someone had told me.

  • There is no shame in doing the smart but un-fun thing to help you get where you need to be. For me, it meant living with my parents for over a year after I graduated. It was fine, but it felt weird to be trying to be an adult while living in my childhood bedroom. But it was what had to happen at that time. Living where you need to or taking the job you have to in order to accomplish something can be the smartest thing you’ll do.
  • Sometimes being a college graduate sucks, and it’s okay that you think it sucks. Feel what you feel. Maybe you thrive on the excitement of the unknown, or maybe uncertainty can leave you curled up in a ball, watching Netflix for hours on end. Neither of these feelings are inherently bad, they’re just different. It’s better to admit the way graduating is making you feel than try to act another way because you see someone else reacting differently. These are crazy times, and no two people will handle it in the exact same way.
  • The transition from student to…something else…is a strange one. It takes time and the willingness to be okay with one chapter of your life being over. You might think that once you find the perfect job you’ll immediately fall into the new routine with contentment and glee, and there will likely be some of that, but it’s a very big adjustment. Sometimes it’s wonderful, and sometimes it’s hard. Look for the wonderful, and be prepared for the hard.
  • The season will change. I promise you. Whether you’re in elation or despair, it will not last forever.
  • Now about that diploma. It’s nice, at first—it’s exciting to see your name there, declaring you have a “Bachelor of Science” or whatever your exact degree was. But there will come times when you will glare at that piece of paper, wondering if it was all worth it. The loans (if you have them) will come due, and you will wonder all the more. Someday you might get a job that will prove to you it was worth it, but maybe the proof won’t come in as tangible a form as a paycheck. Maybe it will be in the enduring relationships, the classes that have helped you look at the world slightly differently, the sense of accomplishment that though schoolwork does not come easily to you you graduated. “Worth it” comes in all shapes and sizes.
  • Find something to enjoy about where you are. Whether it’s extra time to devote to a hobby because you’re un- or under-employed, free food because you live with your parents, or basking in the fact that you no longer have to do homework, there is something good about wherever you’re at right now. Find it. Relish it.
  • Last, and possibly annoyingly, let me remind you that there is a plan here. You don’t always see it, you definitely don’t always feel it, but God has his hand on whatever it is you’re in right now. I’m not promising the plan will always feel like a plan or that the plan will always be good in the definition of good that you know, but it is there.

So there you have it. Welcome to the World After College. It’s a strange place here, and it might take some getting used to, but I hope you learn to enjoy it.

We’re glad you’re here.

Sincerely,

Brianna

p.s. What would you say in a letter to college graduates?

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I Am Not My Title

It’s been nearly a year since I graduated from my label of “College Student.” Shedding it…losing it…those are fair ways to describe how I feel about it too. After being out of school for only a few months, it was somewhat understandable that I was having what I called an Identity Trial. Four years I had spent in college, and many more before that in various levels of school, always introducing myself as a “student at ______.” Student. It’s what I knew. It had become who I was, and I was okay with that.

Until it wasn’t there anymore.

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Photo Credit: Flickr User matthew solle

For most of the past year I had a few titles I wore part-time due to various jobs. They were fine, but nothing I hung my identity on, nothing permanent enough to get overly attached to.

And then. A full-time job, an office with real walls and a window, and a title. One that will be printed on my business cards and gets added to the end of emails. A title that says, “This is what I do, this is who I work for.”

But I am somewhat reluctant to pull this title on fully. It is what I do, but it is not who I am.

Maybe this makes me a bad employee. It’s not that I dislike my title or my company; I’m quite honored to have a job, and I respect and appreciate who I work for and with. But I’m realizing I do not want my job to define me. I want to approach it as a shirt, one I wear proudly and well when the time is right, but not as skin. This job, this title, any job, any title, does not define who I am as a being.

Some blurring between what I do and who I am is inevitable, nor is it necessarily bad. Because of who I am, I will do the job differently than others would–who I am shapes how I do what I do.
I work at least 40 hours a week and come in contact with a variety of fascinating people, thoughts, and ideas–over time, these will in part shape who I am.

But they are not the same. Who I am remains separate from what I do.

When I was a student, I was fine letting that be both what I did and who I was. Things are different now though, and I am choosing to not be my title.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Does what you do define who you are? Why or why not?

2012: This Was The Year

2012.

This was the year I…

  • Interned at the place I’d been wanting to intern at since, oh, ever (or at least high school). And then they liked me, so they kept me part time after that. January 24 will be a year since it all began.
  • Graduated from college, with rather mixed emotions. Homework I was glad to be done with, but much of the rest of my college experience I was sad to leave behind.
  • Went on a trip. I fell in love with London, Oxford, and Edinburgh. I met some great people, saw gorgeous buildings and views, toured a castle, and had some mishaps along the way (such as throwing up in the South Kensington tube station, spending my time walking around Westminster Abbey fighting the urge to lay down on a tombstone because I felt so ill, and having nearly every single flight on my way home get cancelled or delayed). It was fun, it was fascinating, it was…illuminating.
  • Ran a 5k. Then, a few months later, I ran another 5k. For someone who has been known to say, “I only run when I’m being chased, and even then it has to be by something big enough and scary enough,” this was an accomplishment.
  • Rediscovered Twitter, and tweeted my 1000th tweet (and very nearly my 2000th).
  • Moved back home with my parents, and also shared that same house with my sister, brother-in-law, 2 young nieces, and their dog. Though it was nice to be greeted by my nieces running across the house when I got home, it was certainly…an interesting experience.
  • Graded papers (lots of them) and became even more of a grammar stickler.
  • Said “Yes” to at least 2 things I didn’t feel qualified for. Even as I continue to do them, I can’t say with total confidence I do them well all the time, or even some of the time. Perhaps it’s the way of some endeavors.
  • Posted a blog every day for a month. It was exhausting, but good.
  • Grappled with, and attempted to begin to embrace, the uncertainty that has been weaved in with nearly everything I’ve done in 2012, and will continue, in varying degrees, for the rest of my life.

And in all, and through all, God. Even when it didn’t feel like it, even when I didn’t take the time to notice, even when I doubted his plan for me and the way he is working things out in ways I cannot see. There was God, there is God, and there he will always be.

Today I found this meditation from St. Teresa of Avila in a book I’m reading. It is fitting for a year ending, for a year beginning, and for everywhere in between.

Let nothing upset you,
Let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins all it seeks.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.

Happy New Year, and til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What has this past year brought for you? What have you learned or done?

Identity Trial

This post is a part of something bigger—a collection of posts, written by young people, simply sharing what we have to say. We are young (but we have words). 

 

Ask five twenty-two year olds what they’re doing, and you will likely get five different answers. From grad school to weddings, apartments to travels abroad, full-time jobs with benefits to babies, coffee shops to parents’ homes. A lot of these involve mild to massive amounts of change…which I don’t tend to be very good at handling.

Graduating from college and attempting to enter “the big kid world” has brought about significant changes in many aspects of my life (some of which I mentioned here). I’ve lost my familiar rhythms of life, the frustrations and joys of schoolwork, and perhaps one I’m struggling with the most, the label of “college student.” So although for most of my life I had a fairly strong sense of who I am, right now my identity is…a bit in flux. Not quite an identity crisis.

An identity trial, if you will.

At my core I still know who I am; my belief in God is firmly intact, and I have a sense that I would like to do something with my life that is bigger than me, but not FOR me. I still know my likes and dislikes, things I am good at and not good at, things that make me laugh and those that make me cringe.

But that might be about where my list ends. For the time being, I am learning who I am outside of the classroom walls I spent so much time in. I am learning that though I am not enrolled at a particular school, I can still be a student—just in different ways. I am learning that I still have much to learn about just about everything.

It’s an intimidating, uncertain process. I never expected to feel quite THIS out of sorts after I graduated; I knew it would be a change, but I didn’t realize how deeply it would affect me. I wasn’t even aware of how comfortable I had become in the label of “student,” and how disconcerting it would be to shed it.

The type of learning I am doing now is much more frustrating. There are no tests to study for, but that is because there are rarely cut and dried right and wrong answers. There are no long weekends or snow days in the school of real life, no labeled teachers in front of the classroom.

So for the next who-knows-how-long (probably forever, really) I am unsure. Intimidated. Tentative. Overwhelmed. And learning.

I may be having an identity trial, but I am not done.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Unsettled

I’m not a proponent of swearing, so I use this graphic with some hesitation…but the sentiment quite accurately describes how I’m feeling of late.

Seeing as it is now August, is has been just over 3 months since I graduated from college. A day before I graduated from college, I wrote about life-pie, how although a job I had been offered earlier that week took care of one sliver of my life, it far from cured the overall anxiety and fears.

A week after I graduated, I wrote of restlessness, of not knowing how to introduce myself now that I’ve shed the label of “college student.”

And three months later, I find my life still a-jumble, still unknown, still shaken up. I thought maybe over the summer I’d be able to figure a few things out.

Instead, I still feel as though bits of life are swirling about me. The dust has yet to settle, or even begin to do so.

When I graduated from high school, I thought things would fall into place fairly quickly for me after college graduation. It was only around the beginning of my senior year of college that it occurred to me my time to figure things out was waning.

Maybe, though, I’m beginning to learn that the dust doesn’t ever completely settle. Maybe life isn’t so much about waiting for the dust to settle, but learning to live as best as possible in the midst of the swirling. Maybe, as much as I’d like to, I won’t ever get to the point where I feel like I have it all together (or even parts of it together). And maybe we could all do ourselves a favor by admitting that we don’t have it together, instead of trying so hard to make it look like we do. Maybe we’re all just trying to find our way in the midst of unsettled dust.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

How to Make Friends

It’s not a secret that I like people. More specifically, I like friends. I like having friends, I like being among friends, I like making friends. (Though I won’t go so far as to see there’s no such thing as having too many friends…more on that here.)

Yet now, as an official college graduate (my diploma finally arrived today-yay!), I find myself having to navigate a completely different way of making friends than I have known. Making friends in adult-land is currently a mysterious and baffling process.

As a small child, making friends is easy. You approach someone in the sandbox, and as long as they don’t steal your shovel or push you over, look at that-you made a friend. Over time, things get a bit more complicate. In elementary school different groups begin to emerge-the so-called “popular” kids and whatever other various groups that may crop up depending on the school. Middle school just gets ugly, and, particularly for girls, there are often long periods of time when you’re not really sure who’s your friend and who’s your frenemy and who’s your straight-up enemy. The drama may die down some in high school, or maybe just take different forms. Yet here there’s typically more selection for friends, so it becomes easier to group by interests than maybe just convenience.

Then there’s college. Friends made in college often become more like family, particularly if you live on-campus as I did for a little over half of my college career. Bonds become stronger when you live, study, eat, laugh, exercise, fight, and live mere feet from each other. It is not hard to rack up hundreds of hours of time spent together. These friendships often run very, very deep, and though they may not always be perfect, they are lovely things.

Now I find myself in a completely different phase of life. Though I strive to maintain many of the friendships I’ve had for years, there are other people I’d like to become friends with…but I really don’t know how that looks in this big-kid land I’ve stumbled into. With people who have full-time jobs and spouses and mortgages and children, where do I even begin to form a friendship?

Part of me is apprehensive, feeling too young and inexperienced to be able to relate to these people who seem to know how to do adulthood much better than I do. Most of me is baffled as to what friendships look like now. Clearly these are not the types of relationships that will be forged over late-night food runs and sitting in the same room Facebooking. Seeing as this is what I have known for the past 4 years, I find myself yet again in uncharted territory. I just didn’t expect it to be with friendship.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Jumbled Thoughts of A Recent College Graduate: The View From Here

Sitting right here, in this very moment, I type on a borrowed laptop. I’m in the middle of day 2 of not working, since I am currently employed only part time. Taking into account the sum of my possessions and the amount in my bank accounts, minus the amount I owe in loans taken out to cover the cost of my education, and I estimate my monetary value in the negative twenty thousands. Ish.  About a month ago I graduated from college and moved out of my shared apartment and into my parent’s house all in the same week. Since then, I have gone on a trip to England and Scotland, resulting in my falling in love with cities I may never see again. Considering my tendency to get attached deeply and quickly, this does not sit well with me.

Only recently have I come to the realization that as much as I crave stability, I fear boredom. Boredom with my job, boredom with my living situation, boredom in my faith. Finding joy in the little things has been something I have classically succeeded at, or at least recognized the importance of, if nothing else. The dangerous thing about travel though is the risk that, upon returning home, nothing can quite compare to the glitter of where I’ve been. Having only gotten glimpses of the places I traveled to, they are still shiny, new, and alluring, while this city that I have lived in my entire life now seems dull in comparison. If I let myself, I could to see this as a gift; an opportunity to rediscover what it is that makes this city that will most likely be my own for the indefinite future such a wonderful place to be. Hopefully I’ll soon be there, but maybe not right now.

On another front, many of the friends that I typically hang out with when I’m in the vicinity of my parent’s house have already or will soon be going a myriad of ways for the summer months. My posse has shrunk to less than half its normal size. I like my friends; I do not like this.

Living with my parents means seeing much more of my married siblings and their children. While I love them madly, this is not always easy for me. Their marriedness, their parenthood, only seem to only accentuate my singleness. The picture wall in my parent’s den has 3 frames: one holds my sister, her husband, and their 2 beautiful blue-eyed girls. Next to their photo live my brother, his wife, and their joyful, dimpled son. And next to them, I hold a spot of my own; my face at least twice as large as any of the others in the photos, as I attempt to fill the frame on my own.

Right now, at this very moment, with my view from right here, nothing seems settled or clear. Locationally, I know where I am: a coffee shop in Kentwood, MI, just a few miles from home. Other than that though, I’m not really sure where I am. Wherever it is, I’m not sure I like it here very much. I find myself, for the umpteenth time in months, realizing that I don’t have a firm grasp on what’s going on in pretty much any facet of my life. Though I’ve discovered that most people don’t have things together nearly as much as they may appear on the outside, this knowledge does very little to calm the unsettledness that lurks on the edges of my thoughts.

As they have many times before, the lyrics of Gungor’s song “This is Not the End” seem fitting…

And you know you’ll be alright
Oh and you know you’ll be alright
This is not the end
This is not the end of us

There is always more to be written.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Adventures-To-Be of a Recent College Graduate

It’s been 2 weeks since I graduated from college, and in that time I have accomplished…well, not much. A clean desk, a few days of babysitting, a few small errands, but nothing as substantial as writing papers or taking exams, which is what I am used to. I’m still learning what it means to be “graduated.”

However, in these past 2 weeks of varying states of boredom, I’ve been looking forward to a grand adventure.

London.

And Edinburgh.

I leave Sunday.

And I’m very, very excited.

A few months ago I bought my ticket, and though the number in my bank account fell significantly, it didn’t really feel real. Now, as my suitcase sits half-packed on my floor, my wallet now contains some British pounds, and my brand new passport is absolutely itching for its first stamps, it still doesn’t feel entirely real. Part of me is afraid that the whole thing will go by so quickly it’ll feel like it never even happened, and all I’ll have left is the pictures (of which I’m sure I’ll take loads).

But even if it does feel like it never happened at all, I can be thankful that, as my days of college dwindled, and I adjust to an odd mixture of old and new situations colliding, and I have fought to stave off boredom these past couple weeks, this trip has given me something to look forward to. The background on my phone has been a picture of Edinburgh for several months now, to remind me why I sometimes had to say to no to fast food or an impulse Meijer purchase. This trip has been my something to look forward to, a reward of sorts after 4 years of paper writing and Easy Mac. And very soon, I will finally get to enjoy my something to look forward to.

It’s important to have something to look forward to, to strive for and anticipate. Part of the fun is the excitement before the event actually happens, or imagining what things will be like with that new something in your life. Though the waiting may get old after a while, it has a pleasure all its own.

There’s a bit of trepidation mixed in with my excitement as well; I haven’t flown since I was in 1st grade, and now I’ll be navigating airports on my own, not to mention a train station in a county I’ve never set foot in, currency that feels strangely shaped, and dodging cars driving on the…well, not wrong, but unfamiliar side of the road. I have to remind the part of me that enjoys being in the know: this is an adventure. Adventure can be fun, exciting, and magical. So that is what I will choose to see.

For now, I sit in the thrill of anticipation. Next week, I frolic in adventure. =)

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Me and Maslow: Thoughts of a Recent College Graduate

Perhaps you’ve heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Depending on the source you find it from, the specifics named under each category may change, but the main headings are typically consistent.

The idea is that the bottom level–physiological needs–are the most basic, and it is only after these are met that one can begin to focus on the needs in the next level up. Physiological and safety needs are more physical, where the upper three are more internally focused.

I’ve had numerous conversations lately about ol’ Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. Many people I know have recently graduated from college or will soon be doing so, and most of us feel like our pyramids are…a little lacking in some areas.

My most basic needs are met: having moved back home with my parents, I have a bed, a roof over my head, and a well-stocked fridge and cupboards to raid. Starting the end of this month I will be working at least 20 hours a week, so I’ll have at least a little financial income. Physiologically and safety-wise, I’m doing okay.

After those two levels though, things get messy. Many of my friendships are in a weird spot, needing to adjust to new locations and stages of life. Honestly, I don’t know how or if some of them will survive, which pains me. It does not shock me; I knew moving on from college meant things would change. But knowing that this was coming doesn’t keep me from mourning good things, and maybe wishing they could be different. On the same level of the pyramid, I find myself having graduated from college without so much as a possible mate anywhere on the horizon. I’ve bemoaned this before (over here), and though it feels a little raw to admit it…it’s still something I would like to happen, but that hasn’t yet.

From where I sit, perched above level two but somewhere in the middle of level three…those top 2 levels seem kind of a far stretch up. Not unattainable, but a little ways away given my current state. I’m still adjusting to my status as a non-student, learning to face the realities of adulthood from the sheltered dwelling of my parent’s house, and everything feels in flux. Though in general I consider myself a fairly happy, well-adjusted, confident individual, I’m just not solid enough in my place in level 3 to concentrate too much on levels 4 and 5.

However, I have a much bigger picture to look at than simply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Sure, it’s fairly logical reasoning that basic needs must be met before higher-order ones can be fulfilled, but I’m not (or at least I shouldn’t be) looking to fulfill those things on my own. Though right now I don’t really know what it is, God does have some sort of plan for me, even in this weird land of in-between. There is a purpose to this bit of floundering I’m doing, if for no other reason than to prepare me for whatever will come next.

Having done hardly anything of measurable productivity since graduating, I’m not feeling very accomplished or fulfilled…but my fulfillment shouldn’t be coming from things do anyway. I fall into that thinking often, but that’s not how things should be.

So if Maslow were to take a look at my life, he’d say I’ve got a ways to go. When I look at my life lately, I say I’ve got a ways to go. And really, I do. I’m only twenty-two, after all…hopefully I’ve got lots more life to live, much more to do and see. But maybe God’s trying to say, “Hey, Maslow’s missing the mark here. Because say where you are is exactly where you’re supposed to be, and I’ve got you. You’re okay.”

And his okay should be enough.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

The First Post by The Recent College Graduate: Restless

“Hi, I’m Brianna, and I’m a student at…”

I find myself stopping short when I think of how would I introduce myself to someone. That label of “student” I wore for so long is now gone, and has yet to be replaced by anything significant enough worth mentioning. It’s been nearly a week since I graduated, and I have done very little; perhaps nothing at all of noteworthy status. The bed I sit on as I type this is the same one I slept in as a child, while some of the decorations on my walls hail from high school days. It is hard to feel as though graduation was a step forward; dwelling-wise, I have gone backward.

My calendar for the rest of this week and much of next is quite empty. I find myself coming up with errands to run, and intentionally splitting them up into smaller trips on separate days, just for some sort of reason to leave the house each day. It hasn’t even been a full week of nothing-ness and already I am doing this. Restless.

In a week and a half I’m leaving for a trip to London and Edinburgh. Approximately half of my time is filled with thoughts of this, of what to pack and how things will look and will the person I sit next to on the plane be nice and will I be able to concentrate on what anyone is actually saying when I’m lost in the sound of their fascinating accents and which shoes should I wear on the plane? These thoughts are helpful, in a way. Anticipation is exciting.

But my trip will inevitably end. Less than a week after I return I’ll start my twenty hour a week temp job, but still…so many hours in a week to fill. Yet I hate thinking like that–that I’m simply trying to fill the hours of each day, instead of really enjoying what I’m doing. Restless.

I don’t really want to sit still all the time, yet at the same time I find myself feeling that doing something is too much work. Restless.

Restless, restless, restless.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~