The Abyss of Graduation
Looking back on a year from today is so important to me because on that day I graduated from college and began the 'first year of confusion' aka the first year in the job market, aka the first year proceeding college. A year ago I graduated college and flew out to Vegas to go to the Marine Corps Ball with the love of my life... who months later, I married.
I woke up today at 4:30 pm having slept sixteen hours. But how else can you weigh a whole year? I was in a coma re-living the year before, letting it weigh me, and fill me, and change me, letting that year have it's mark on my body. That year made me a person I didn't want to be, because I had decided that I didn't want to change after college.
I graduated believing the job market would flood me with open arms, with open jobs, and of course some bomb salaries. I believed my resume was hot, because I had a degree. I believed I was an amazing candidate for anything, even though all my experience lied in college jobs and internships. I was set up to fail, but I didn't know it.
I've decided to unravel the year (the abyss) in sixteen hours.
Hour 1 (end of May): I graduated college and flew to Vegas immediately after for my first marine corps ball. I stayed in Vegas for a week, and almost stayed another, but I was having issues obtaining my visa to India. It was so amazing to visit the West Coast again, to see where my boyfriend had been living the past four years and meet his friends.
Hour 2 (June): I flew back to Maryland and became depressed. I hadn't fully processed graduating and I missed college life and my friends. I had moved back home and all of my stuff was in the living room. I missed my boyfriend who I didn't know when I'd see again. I was planning to fly off to India with a group of people I didn't know, and with no real clear understanding of the trip. And I was still trying to figure out how I'd move to LA when I came back and how to find a job there.
Hour 3-7 (end of June to August): I spent 6 weeks abroad, the first in Thailand, four in India, and the last in Thailand. I learned what Ministry of presence was. I learned how to fail. I learned how to be humbled. I was broken in a way I had never seen coming, because I thought graduating college and finding myself there had made me a woman of steal. I broke in a way I didn't recognize would take months, not weeks to fix. I came back questioning existence, depressed, and happily reunited with my boyfriend for three days.
Hour 8 (Middle of August to end of August): I returned numb. I was a shell of a girl, a woman. I was depressed in a way I had never been, I didn't understand the culture shock, or the trip, the food. Nothing made sense. And here I was planning to live in LA, to fly across the country, only on this trip I would not be traveling whole, I was stripped of all that I was. And I was job searching, with no clue what to do. Confused, sad, afraid, but excited I packed up my whole life again. Only this time it was the only space I had left that was mine, and my room was immediately taken over by my sister. As I packed away my things, I knew I wouldn't return to live there again. It was a thrilling and mournful thought.
Hour 9 (September): I boarded a plane and entered a part of my life I call "the Wasteland" nothing made sense. I was living my life terrified of every little thing. Afraid of staying more than two weeks at my friend's house (I ended up staying two months). My decision to move was so blunt, but the decision didn't take on full color until I'd been there a couple of weeks, with all my interviews and job prospects out the window. I applied endlessly to jobs, hearing no responses, feeling lost in a big world. And worse, confused about the God I had called mine for years. I was cut off from everything I'd known, everything I thought was true seemed to blow away from me like dust. It was a downward spiral. Some sunshine in this wasteland came through when I visited my great uncle and aunt who helped me remember parts of my own culture, Italian culture, and teaching me about it again.
Hour 10 (October-November): My boyfriend came back to Cali after a training in NC. Our reunion was the sweetest of moments. We went camping with friends and I ended up staying at his friend's house on the base for a good four weeks. I got to visit my brother and his wife in Vegas, I celebrated Halloween with them and then went to another Marine Corps Ball. October wasn't the colorful leaves and the autumn I knew, which made me sad in another way, but it was a time of self-renewal. I found a church through my sister, I got a job as a hostess and I was making money again. I ended up moving to another living situation this time with a sweet couple and then I left my job as a hostess to become a barista at Starbucks. My life wasn't suddenly perfect or happy. But it became more whole, as I became more whole. I was becoming more stable, and strong enough to believe again.
Hour 11 (December): I only worked at Starbucks for two weeks and then my boyfriend and I flew back to the East coast, home for both of us. We spent a week in Florida, with my boyfriend's family. I felt so relaxed and loved. It was a great time, and I got to know his family more. And then we flew to Maryland, at this point I was confused because I thought my boyfriend was going to propose and he hadn't. I was stressed in Maryland, I think there was a lot going on for me. Such as, this was a place I had left and I still hadn't 'proven myself' in the ways that I thought I would in LA. I had not accomplished much of anything, nothing to show for four months gone. And I was stressed to be back in a place that made/makes me feel claustrophobic. I enjoyed seeing my family again, but it was hard. Then my boyfriend proposed and became my fiancée and all our dreams of eloping were cut short when we told my parents.
Hour 12 (January): We returned to California engaged with a Bride magazine under my arm, and holding hands with my other. We were about to jump in to a whole new world and it was exhilarating. We eloped a week later. Moved to the desert, and life began anew, again. I quit my job at Starbucks and faced the reality of being unemployed again.
Hour 13 (February): I was stressed in a different way, barely processing India, not fully processing LA, and now I was married. We were growing together and it was beautiful. But I was lost. DJ and I both knew that we'd only be there for three months, and we both knew that three months would be just the right amount for me to not lose it out there.
Hour 14 (March): My birth control was beginning to effect me in ways I hadn't anticipated. Horrible migraines and mood swings. I had to find another method. DJ and I started to plan not only the wedding celebration, but also moving to LA. We had white boards covered in plans. And I began to go to base with him more, so I could learn more about veterans benefits and help him return his gear.
Hour 15 (April): DJ finished his contract as an active duty marine and we moved to LA. We found an apartment close to his programming bootcamp. We have three roommates now. And one roommate dog. My job search began again, my anxiety about job searching came back again and so did the stress of feeling inadequate because I didn't have a 'job' or 'success' straight out of college. I worked through these feelings and found myself back at square one aka job searching but this time realizing what jobs would be best for me, realizing more of what I wanted. Finally understanding how to process, and learning that I'd never find the resolution I wanted about India.
Hour 16 (May): Exactly one year since graduation. I'm still not 'over' my feelings of not finding a legit job. I'm still learning what post-grad life looks like. And I'm learning to be humble, in a way I didn't realize I needed. I'm back on the job market and have had my first job option come to me in months. It's exciting, I'm still learning what I want, how to market myself and how to process things. I've now been married a little over four months, and I have learned so much about myself and Dj, and we have learned how to help each other and inspire each other. Everything is not sunshine and daisies all the time, but I do find myself happier than I could have ever imagined. It's not what I thought post-grad would be. But here I am, a year later, a year wiser and a year that I 'found myself' again.
It's haunting to see graduation pictures of friends on Facebook now. After I feel like I haven't even started my post-grad journey, but as you can see, I did- I just didn't know it yet. Everyone is on a different path, and I believe we need to learn to give space to things and people, and ourselves. We need space to process, to grow, to learn and to change. We need space to find what we want, what we need and where we can be our best selves. So, to all those who are post-grads, or recent grads, or waiting to be a grad, take your time. Tread the path at the pace you need, and listen to the voice inside of you instead of the voices of others. Expectation and comparison will kill you if you let them.
Take a deep breathe.
Take a lot of deep breathes.
Take them all the time.
And never stop. Learn how to breathe amongst all the worries you carry and when you breathe you will learn how to let them go.