Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"always do what you love. never settle."

This post is going to be much deeper and longer than most. In 2013 I've been beyond excited to share new things happening in my life, all the "next steps" and the good things. I'm going to really expand on my post-college journey so far, and how I followed my heart (as corny as that sounds).

2013 was already a huge year for me with graduation. Along with graduation came the "real world" - something I was excited for pre-graduation, yet also dreading at the same time. I loved college. There are still plenty of moments where I wish I could go back. Going back and visiting Gonzaga will always be amazing, filled with bittersweet happiness and nostalgia.
However, this post on Thought Catalog really resonated with me. After graduation, I spent the next five days on campus staying at friends' houses (my on campus apartment move-out deadline was the morning after graduation) because I wasn't quite ready to leave. While the two weeks leading up to graduation were sunny, blissful, and filled with that similar bittersweet happiness feeling, those five days post-graduation felt the exact opposite. It began to thunderstorm the next morning, and I remember running back and forth in the rain from the apartment doors to the parking lot to load my car up with boxes. My room was empty. The kitchen was empty. The bathroom was scrubbed clean, the walls were bare, and all the decorations were gone. It felt sad, and the rain was unfortunately fitting to my mood.

Luckily, my best friends were still there, so we went to the cafe we frequented for lunch. Even though our conversation was filled with laughter and fun, there was this gloomy, overhanging feeling. Gonzaga University, which was our home for four years, was no longer our home anymore. And as much as we tried to resist it, we had to move on.
We were forced to focus on the "real world" and get a job or at least figure out something to do with our lives. This was another punch in the gut for me. I didn't have a job before graduation. The night before graduation I was filled with so many mixed emotions; beyond satisfied with the past four years, happy with all the amazing friends I made and the experiences I had, but also sad that it was ending and feeling like a failure because I wasn't employed. I had an emotional breakdown and remember my friend Abbie, who graduated a year prior, comforting me and telling me everything was going to be okay. (Little did I know at the time, that yes, I was going to be okay.)

I felt like a failure. Which was honestly SO ridiculous. There is so much pressure for seniors to find a job right away and jump right into the workforce after graduation. Of course it is smart to be on top of things, to look for careers, have internships, and be prepared. If you get a job before graduation, then that's amazing! Good for you! I was genuinely proud of my friends and peers who were employed pre-graduation, especially those who were excited to begin working. I will admit that I had a couple of offers, but I didn't take them. They weren't the right fit. I had also been very close to getting two other jobs that sounded great. However...they weren't exactly perfect (and I got rejected).

One of the jobs I was in the running for was in Spokane (the same city I went to college in). The job's duties sounded fantastic and were exactly what I wanted to do. But I didn't get it...which, I would find out later, was a blessing in disguise. It was in God's plan that I didn't get that job. Why? There are plenty of reasons, but here are a few:

1. I would not have enjoyed staying in Spokane after graduation.
2. I would have been working full-time, and wouldn't have had time to travel.
3. I would not have had the amazing experiences from the two jobs I had post-graduation, if I had taken that job.

After college, I moved back in with my parents. I was afraid that I'd have to live in the Seattle suburbs for a long time. I was afraid that I'd settle for a job in Seattle just so I'd feel "accomplished" and "not lazy" and not a "failure." I almost took a job being a summer nanny (again), because I knew the exact amount of money I would make, and then at the end of the summer I could travel, and then figure out career options from there.
However, my parents kept pushing me to keep looking for jobs. It was only one week after being home that I was contacted for an interview for a summer position at the Global Young Leaders Conference in Washington, DC. The interview went well and I was notified two days later that I got it! There was a catch, though: training started in five days.

I had never been to DC, but I participated in a similar program as a student in high school and really, really enjoyed it. In the back of my mind I had always wanted to be a group leader and pass on the invaluable skills I learned in high school to a whole new generation of high school students. Of course I was nervous, but I accepted the job and left only a few days later. Summer 2013 was one of the most rewarding summers of my life so far, because I not only had a great time exploring a new city, but also meeting and inspiring high school kids from around the world. I fell in love with DC and want to move back there. In addition, I also got to explore a little more of the east coast as our conferences went back and forth from DC and New York.

Mid-summer, I got some more exciting news: I was offered a fall position at Euroadventures, the travel company I currently work for. Beyond ecstatic that I was going to go back to Italy, I couldn't believe how everything just fell into place. My job in DC ended in mid-July. The job in Italy began in mid-August. It was perfect timing.
When I thought I was a "failure" for not getting a job back in May, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If I hadn't been turned down for those jobs, I wouldn't have spent the summer on the east coast doing a job I love, and then moving to Europe for a travel job.

It's funny how the universe works that way...

One thing I will say is that no one should ever feel like a failure at graduation if their post-college plan isn't quite set up yet. Countless people told me that, but I didn't really listen to them. Yes, I was proud of myself for coming so far, but with so much pressure to get a job...I don't know. It was a really weird time period. A college degree is already a huge achievement in itself. I am so lucky to have gotten to go to college and go to an amazing school. I am so lucky to have had an amazing four years at that school and to have grown so much in every way possible.

Graduating college is already an achievement. The whole "real world" thing is not as cool as it seems, and it can wait a little bit. (And, if you're like me and wanted to take a little time to travel after college, read this blog post I wrote for our company blog. There are plenty of ways to travel after college, and if that's what you want to do, you should just do it.)
Anyways, I'm not quite sure what is next for me in 2014. I'm really into doing what makes you happy. If you're doing something you're questioning, then give it a little time to decide what you want. Then, ultimately, if you're not happy, don't settle. There are plenty of other things that you could be doing that would make you happy. Just do what makes you happy. Do what you love to do. And never settle.


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