Finding Happy One Year Later
Last Thursday, I got an email from my company’s CEO.
“Congratulations,” it read, “on the most important decision of your life thus far. You’ve been with us for an entire year!”
The email was a little presumptuous; I found it a little off-putting. But it reminded me of a milestone I would have marched right past had it not been for a standardized company email and nice little bonus gift in my paycheck—I’ve been living this adult life for 365 days.
It was only one year ago that I was sitting in coffee shops pulling my hair out over job applications… one short year ago “effective cover letter examples” was my top Google search. Only one year ago that I was living in my parent’s house stalking Pinterest decoration ideas for a little apartment in a big city I could call my own one day. One year ago I felt like everyone else was getting invited to live their dream lives while I was being shut out of the club.
I remember more than one night sitting on my living room couch, looking past my mom, best friend, or empty seat at a framed high school senior year photo of my seventeen-year-old self, blinking tears out of my eyes. Thinking, You wanted more than this. I just didn’t know what it was that I wanted more of.
I’ve always been a dreamer, to the point where missing milestones becomes my norm, and big accomplishments get passed off as mere stepping stones. 365 days ago I got a call from someone named Melissa in HR, telling me news I’d been dying to hear since I turned the tassel on my graduation cap, and for about five minutes my heart pounded with joy and I couldn’t wipe a smile off my face if I tried. I called all of my closest humans, I cried from relief, I thought, I finally did it.
But then came the apartment hunt, and then came the moving, and then came the first day, and then came the planning for how quickly I could escape this place and move on to the next. Not a month after I started my dream job, I was already setting timelines for how long I could enjoy it for before I moved on to “something better.”
The deadline was one year.
A few months into this adult life, I realized just how much I was enjoying it—I was getting used to feeling surrounded by friends, to runs on the beach, to my little purple-painted bedroom. I hadn’t woken up in a panic of “What do I do with my life?” in longer than I could remember. I was getting better at my job every day and started becoming friends with my co-workers.
“By fall of next year I’m either starting grad school or starting job applications,” I told my friends one night at happy hour (another perk of this adult life). We all agreed. We loved our first jobs, but we didn’t want to get comfortable. We had bigger dreams. We had to keep moving.
But one by one I watched all of those friends hit their one year marks, and each time they’d say it wasn’t time to move on yet. “I still have more to learn,” they told me. Or, “I like it here too much,” or, “It’s just too good a job to leave.”
I questioned them. I knew when I hit my year anniversary I was calling it quits, I was moving forward, I wasn’t going to let myself be held back. But the months kept passing, and that lightness in my heart kept expanding.
I made more friends. I got downright good at my job. I was learning more. I had time to work on my own projects. I went to more events. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my purple-painted bedroom. Every time I came home from a weekend away, I’d think, “This is home.”
I didn’t realize that all of those excuses my friends gave me when they decided to stay weren’t excuses—they were just happy.
It took me 365 days to take it in… I am just happy, too.
I’m still a dreamer. I still have a checklist with all of the places I want to live written down in my journal. I still spend half my life worrying about what I want to do with the rest of my life after this. Sometimes I’m so bored of my routine I want to hop on a train during my lunch break and just see where it takes me.
But for all the fears That First Year after being pushed out of college instills in us—after all the fear and stress and worry and wondering—one year later I’m living out the happiest, most blessed period of life I’ve encountered so far. One year later, I’m taking a moment to enjoy this milestone.
Sometimes, moving forward isn’t the answer to “How do I get ahead?” Sometimes, the life you’ve been seeking meets you just where you are.