Hindsight is 20/20: Reflections on My First Post-Grad Year
Graduations are weird. You spend countless semesters studying to walk across a stage and receive a (probably empty) diploma cover from administration you’ve probably never met before in front of an audience of classmates you don’t know and your entire extended family. Alright, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but the whole thing is very strange. That being said, at the end of four long years, making a bit of a spectacle out of commencement is well-deserved and something most of us look forward to.
When I graduated last spring, I was a complete jumble of emotions. I was more than ready to be done with school but nowhere close to being prepared for the real world. I didn’t have a job lined up as I had hoped and my near-future seemed seriously bleak. Not to mention it was 90 degrees and my hair was just not cooperating, so of course the irritability ensued.
The whole afternoon I was dreading the possibility of being one of very few who tripped on stage; I then proceeded to lose my name card twice during the ceremony. Luckily at my school, our commencements are by department, not alphabetically by last name, so I was able to experience it all with my friends (and find my name card just as my row got called up).
I shook a lot of hands, took even more pictures and proceeded to sit on my butt for the rest of the summer. I had a few freelance gigs here and there writing or booking shows but for the most part my career was rather stagnant. I applied for endless jobs and kept reminding myself it takes, on average, sixth months to secure something full-time post-grad. All while my shiny diploma sat and stared at me.
Fast forward to graduation season 2016, and I found myself sitting on the other side of the stage this time. Many of my close college friends graduated a year behind me so this May, one year to the day, I made my way to the Chicago Theatre on a dreary 60-degree spring afternoon and sat in the audience as I experienced my department’s graduation for a second time.
Everything about this graduation day was entirely different from my own. The weather, the location, my outfit—you name it, it was different. Regardless, it was an almost indescribable feeling to be there 365 days after finishing school to basically re-live it all. I spent my entire college career at one school, but couldn’t imagine how completely linked to but equally removed from my alma mater I would feel. I cheered for my friends, clapped for every speech and cried more than once.
My university has a graduation unlike any other; there is music, dancing and out of this world keynote speakers. For this ceremony, prolific songwriter Diane Warren was the recipient of an honorary doctorate and she played her song “I Was Here” (originally performed by Beyoncé) with a student ensemble. And that’s where I lost it.
Earlier that day I had an interview which immediately turned into a new job that I was so excited about. Sitting there realizing how far I had come in a year was overwhelming. By August after my own graduation, I had landed a management position at a film festival and moved into the position I’m in now immediately following Halloween. It was only a few short months before my career was off the ground, but those days dragged on and on. As I was perched in my aisle seat reminiscing on how I felt at my own graduation, I was also sympathizing with everyone who is now a part of the class of 2016. Some may have known where they were headed and others probably didn’t have a clue, just like me when I was in their shoes a year ago.
It definitely seemed like the end of the world to not have my whole life planned out once college was over. I am slowly learning that because I’m still young, I have so much time to get all my ducks in a row. The same goes for everyone who also finds themselves now wearing their adult pants instead of their college-student sweat pants they wore to every 9 am.
Looking back, I don’t regret taking time off the summer after graduation one bit. I waited for the right gig to come my way, and it was worth every single day spent staring at my resume and writing cover letters. Everything happens when and how it is supposed to happen, so it’s important to put your faith in that. Opportunities won’t just fall into your lap, so you shouldn’t stop putting yourself out there, but every dead-end interview, rejected application, or random part-time job will lead you to something great. Keep in mind that your very first job out of college will most likely not be your last so don’t beat yourself up over searching for perfection. Just find something you’d be excited to show up to every day.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I’d be lying if I said I had felt this way when I was wearing my own cap and gown. But as I watched the Business and Entrepreneurship class of 2016 accept their diplomas, I sat there with tears in my eyes and beamed with pride. Every single short-term goal I had set for myself post-grad I had achieved and then some. However, I was so caught up in the grind of it all I hadn’t realized it until that day. I was excited about my future and hungry to continue accomplishing things. It may have taken a full year to realize how far I have come, but this is just the beginning.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]