Two years ago on May 22nd, 2016, I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree of Arts, and it was the most frightening day of my life. I had no future plans, I didn’t have job offers waiting for me, and I had no idea how I was going to survive as a writer. Long story short, I felt like a failure. However, I’m grateful that I finally had time to educate myself, fall in love with my passion again, and found a career that is perfect for me. I thought I needed to figure everything out before I graduated, but I needed time to grow after college before my degree could actually work for me.
This is how it all went down.
My senior year of college was very rough for me—I had moments when I silently cried on the train while heading home from the library, I was always tired and emotionless in public, and I lost my interest in writing. My spring semester was a bittersweet experience because I had two classes; a workshop on non-fiction writing and an African American Theater seminar, both I really enjoyed, but my third class nearly kept me from graduating. It was an English class on Geoffrey Chaucer, an English poet who is basically the father of English Literature, and is best known for his work, The Canterbury Tales. This was the only mandatory class that I needed for graduation, and even my adviser told me that this class and professor would be a challenge.
Now, as an English major, you would think that old English literature would excite me, but it was completely draining. I did not have a great understanding of this particular artist, or his work, and I slowly stopped doing homework assignments, as well as attending the class because I simply had no interest. I was foolish because I should have asked for help from my professor, and figured out a way to find inspiration from Chaucer’s poetry. Because of my decisions, I suffered a penalty in my grades for missing a large number of classes, and 6 weeks from graduation, I had over thirty-two, 700-word journal entries and responses that I still had to do, on top of preparing for my final.
I can’t tell you how many times I cried during that time, but I was extremely worried that this one class would be the reason why I would have to tell my mother that I can’t graduate. Thankfully, I didn’t have to face her with that type of conversation. I immediately avoided all distractions like texts, phone calls, and social media, I didn’t sleep for days at a time, and I went to the library with food, a small pillow, and headphones to get those journal entries done. I finished the class with a B-, and my professor helped by giving the class a week extension for journal entries after we took the finals. The most devastating part was that I went from a possible Magna Cum Laude to Cum Laude for my degree. I know that Cum Laude is still an accomplishment, and I should’ve been proud of that, but I was very hard on myself. I thought these honors would be extremely important for my job search, which I later found out that it’s more about experience than my honorary grades.
After dealing with that experience, I was happy that graduation was coming up, but I was worried for my life after college. During my senior year, I worked two jobs, wrote for the student newspaper, performed poetry at some college events, had an unpaid writing internship for a hair blog, and was loaded with essays every week. My mental state at this point was devastating. I didn’t take care of myself, I didn’t have a social life, and now I had to face the reality that I was graduating from college with no plans at all.
I felt envious at times towards my fellow colleagues because many of them had multiple job offers coming at them. A lot of them were Journalism majors, Communications, Business, and even English. As a writer, I had no experience in grant writing, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work in a newsroom, and I had always regretted not minoring or double majoring in Business. I also wasn’t in the right mental space to deal with graduate school. So, now what?
I honestly wish I could relive my graduation day because it wasn’t as memorable as I wanted it to be. I didn’t take many pictures at the graduation because my family and I had to leave right after and head for my celebration dinner. I was fighting sad tears in front of my family during the dinner, and faked a smile most of the time. However, I was very grateful because my aunts and my cousins made me feel better about my accomplishments, despite not having the dream job that every college graduate deserves to have in the end. When I went back home, the reality of no more classes was very relieving, but I felt like I wasn’t ready for the real world. It took my mother and my brother to sit me down, pray, enlighten, and encourage me on this new post-graduate journey. Because of my support system, I was optimistic that my time will come eventually, but I needed to work on myself in order to gain that dream career that God already had waiting for me, just two years later.
Just a year later after graduating, I was able to leave my retail job, I worked with a few temporary agencies to grow my skills in the corporate world, and I got stronger spiritually and mentally. I’m grateful that I had a break to figure out my life when college ended. Although I dealt with toxic environments, lay offs, and complex personalities in some of my job positions, I always handled myself with confidence, and always believed that something greater will happen for me. Sometimes, your blessings will come after that 6-month grace period, and there is nothing wrong with that. Just three months ago, I was blessed into a job with a healthy environment, sweet and incredible co-workers, and a community full of writers and poets like myself. I believe that my current role would not have happen if I didn’t spend my post-grad life working on my talents and skills. There would be no way that I could do my current job just fresh out of college.
To my fellow graduates of the past, future, and today—never give up on your journey. If you don’t have the dream job now, you will have it later. Do not compare yourself or be envious towards your colleagues, and if it happens, acknowledge it. It took me a while to realize that my colleagues deserved their own individual accomplishments, and I needed to stop devaluing my own. Also, please ASK FOR HELP! I had a community of alumni, professors, high school mentors, and friends help me find positions when I felt too weak to do it myself. The crazy thing about life is that we don’t know what will happen in the future, but the work that we put in now will set us far ahead to goals that we didn’t know was possible. So, celebrate on your graduation day, don’t think about your future at that moment, and be proud that you have a degree that you can call your own.