It has now been one year, one month, and twenty-five days since graduation…
…and there are times when I still don’t know what I’m doing.
I was raised with this one-track mindset; an ingrained thirst to want and to need a college degree, a piece of parchment which will ultimately define my success and validate my existence as an individual. There was nothing more cathartic than walking up those stone paved steps in front of my Liberal Arts building and shaking the English department Dean’s hand. Not because I finally got to hold my degree in my hands, but because school was finally over.
I was never one for school.
I loved learning and interacting with diverse minds my own age, but the rigid structure of American academia was really cramping my style.
I always studied the night before an exam.
I always banged out multi-page essays without doing very much research.
Am I proud of it? Not necessarily, but the real question is how many more times can I really deconstruct and write about the religious symbolism of John Milton’s Paradise Lost without dozing off into an under-caffeinated slumber?
(Apologies to Professor Powers)
A year later, here I am. I do believe I am sharper and more experienced since graduating, but the irrational fear of failure still lingers in the back of my mind like the stench of leftover casserole. It’s this overactive neurosis that keeps on taunting me by whispering in my ear, “You’re going to fall on your face and everybody’s going to have a good laugh at it.”
That saying about “the only thing holding you back is you” couldn’t be any truer. I’ve been able to overcome burned relationships, failed projects, and long, depression-riddled creative ruts, but when it comes to figuring out how to overcome my own faults, I’m still a work in progress.
There are days when giving up feels more and more tempting.
Why not, right? Especially when it feels like no one understands you, when your family still questions your every move, and when you’re not where you want to be in your professional and personal life. It can be a lonely path towards attaining our ideal definition of success…but it’s the little shining, glimmers of progress that make the pain a bit more tolerable.
The early morning grind.
The late night editing session.
The moment when inspiration strikes.
When you want something so bad, you have to keep chipping away at that block of marble until it becomes a statue. Your progress has to light a raging fire in the pit of your stomach until you reach that next level of progress. The kind of fire that doesn’t want to be suppressed or put out; it’s the kind that needs to be fueled and needs to keep roaring.
Whether you’re in the process of looking for a job, paying off your student loans, and/or still having to convince your family that your art degree is unique and valuable, remember to check in with yourself once in a while.
See what you’ve learned.
I’m learning more and more about myself every day. I’m learning that I’m more resilient than I give myself credit for, I’m learning that I’m not as cold as I portray myself to be, and I’m learning that I like learning. A year removed from the safe confines of school, I continue to tell myself to keep moving forward and maintain forward momentum.
Giving up is easy. Moving forward is meaningful.
Stay fired up, friends.