I’m a planner. I mean a serious planner. I organize everything to the T and take pride in always staying a step ahead of the game. Every class, every internship, and study abroad program I went on was both considered and outlined in my head and on paper months, sometimes even years before I stepped foot into the classroom or out of the country.
But this past year, something happened to me that has never before occurred in my college career. None of my plans actually worked out.
See, I started the year strong. Stressed as usual but ready to apply to a bunch of different fellowship programs since taking a gap-year was my main goal following graduation. I struggled through applications while working two jobs and trying to keep up with my classes, eventually landing interviews for two prestigious programs.
However, those interviews were where my good luck and prospective plans fizzled out. I got waitlisted for the first, (which is basically a nice way of saying "you're denied unless something absolutely drastic happens") and although I passed through to the final interview phase for the second program, with an awesome fellowship in Vietnam at my fingertips, the interview itself just didn’t feel right. I got rejected. And with all of my hopes riding on that single position I was left with no recourse.
Rejection can be extremely hard to swallow. Trust me. Especially when you’re used to things going your way. And to be quite honest with you, it was difficult pulling myself back up and gathering the motivation to put myself back out there after a year of hard work, stress, and eventually disappointment. All of this was only exasperated by every single post from seemingly every single University of Michigan grad (I mean it’s Michigan, we do great things!) about the new, cool jobs they would be starting in the fall in some new cool city.
Now I am in the process of applying for an array of different writing, translation, and event planning jobs. Are any of the above what I truly want? Possibly. Hell, I’m 21, I don’t even know what I want for breakfast tomorrow. My interests and desires are constantly changing and 4 years ago when I started school at Michigan what I wanted was completely different than what I envision for myself now. Add to this confusion the fact that in this digital era, ruled by social media, it is easy for everyone to construct an image that everything is great, graduating is fun, and the possibilities are endless. But the harsh truth is... a lot of us are struggling. Crushed underneath the expectations of family, friends, and peers that we should have this perfect plan laid out for ourselves when many of us with liberal arts degrees barely possess the skillsets to enter this dog-eat-dog job market.
So here I am to say that I feel for recent graduates like myself. I understand what you guys are going through. Yes I have been afforded a world class education at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation where I was able to expand my knowledge and cultural awareness through international travel. I am completely aware of that privilege and eternally grateful for those experiences. However, my internal struggle persists: Why didn’t I apply for more fellowships? What did I do wrong in that interview? Will I ever get a job? Why didn’t I do more internships during undergrad so I would be more marketable? Why didn’t I just apply for grad school instead of deciding to take a gap year? Should I take x-job even if I don't particularly want it? Can I afford to take x-job? What’s next?
It’s hard. The emotions of inadequacy and uncertainty ebb and flow. But I’ve been trying to get better at reminding myself that I’m young and I don’t have all the answers at this point--I mean, I probably never will. And that I’m intelligent, beautiful, and deserving of happiness even if I don’t have it all together at the moment.