Isn’t it crazy how time flies? Around this time three years ago I graduated from college. When I look back to three years ago I think about a young woman who was excited to start a career in journalism. I was bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to take on the world. Three years later, I’m working in Higher Ed and considering going back to school for an MBA. My first three years out of college have felt like a crash course in life. I’ve learned what I want in a job, what makes a company a good fit for me, and how important it is to listen to my gut. When I was in college, I imagined that at this point in my career I’d be doing what I love. What I’ve learned instead is that finding out what you don’t want to do is just as significant as finding your passion.
For a while, I hated the cards I was dealt when it came to figuring out a career path. While my friends were finding jobs they loved or at least saw potential in, I encountered jobs with toxic work environments or a lack of job growth. Dealing with the real world felt like a test I couldn’t pass. I constantly was comparing myself to where my friends were in their careers and lives. It took me a while to realize that comparing myself to others was a complete waste of time. By comparing myself I was anxious and never felt like what I did was enough. How are you supposed to enjoy your life, when you feel like someone else’s life is more ideal?
The cards I was dealt have led to so many hurdles, tears and sleepless nights. But what they’ve taught me is that I’m stronger than I realized. Everyone has a different path in life. Some people fall into the career they love almost immediately, some people don’t. And on the outside, it can look like everything just works out well for someone else. The thing is, especially in our society, we only see the pretty pictures and smiles. We don’t see the tears someone shed, or their hard work and determination to get to the point they are at. We usually see the arrival to their destination but not the journey.
Thinking about the struggles I’ve had the last three years in trying to gain my footing in the real world reminds me of something my track coach once said to me. “When you’re running in the race, focus on the finish line. Don’t look at what the runners next to you are doing, that will just slow you down. Just focus on yourself and what you need to do.”
Focusing on myself and my goals has felt like a foreign concept for me. I have a tendency to want to help other people, but unfortunately it use to be at the expense of myself. Instead of worrying about getting into grad school or changing careers I would help other people reach their goals. The moment I tried to make things happen for myself I realized that it’s possible to help people while making myself a priority. While I’ve definitely experienced pushback for it, I’ve learned along the way that if I put all of my energy into others, I have nothing left for myself.
Right now, my life feels more confusing than it did three years ago. I have more things figured out, but it definitely doesn’t mean it’s easier. Life is like a journey with no real roadmap. The end result is largely up to you. It’s a foreign concept coming out of school. However, it’s all about trying new things and being open to the ways life may change. I use to have a timeline in my head of where I’d be. Life definitely has taken a direction that I didn’t expect, but most of the time it’s been better than anything I could dream up. Even in my worst situations I’ve learned something. Lately, I’ve been referring to myself as a freshman in life. There’s so much to learn and mistakes will happen along the way. Like being a freshman in high school or college, eventually we figure out who we are and what we need in order to be successful.
Have I figured out my life by now? (Not really.) But I’m learning and growing everyday.