For some people, life after graduation is clear as they are ready to take on the next step of their life, whether it’s reading over course material for graduate school, getting their first paycheck at their new job (dream job or not), getting married or whatever the case may be. For others, the path to “success” is currently under construction. There’s rocky ground, maybe some fog, and a lot of waiting. Not that these two categories can’t be mixed; but for me, I’m definitely in the second category.
It was engraved into my brain that the necessary steps to life were to graduate high school, go to college, graduate college and then have a successful career. Somehow, life between graduating college and having a career was not included in life’s to-do list and there has not been a clear bullet point that I can just check off the list.
Friends are getting engaged or having children, coworkers are landing their first job that pays reasonably more than minimum wage and some are already buying books for their specific masters program. It wasn't until the last day to submit the FAFSA that I even considered going to graduate school and honestly still don’t know if that is the path I will head down.
It’s not that my university has not prepared me well because it certainly has. I’ve spent the last four years enjoying all my major classes, falling in love with my job at the university newspaper and genuinely smile to myself as I “like” the posts about my alumni friends landing their first major job out of college.
I’m blessed to even have the option of going to graduate school, or continuing the search of finding a “big girl” job. But sometimes the fork in the road is jagged and messy, and deciding which direction to take is terrifying. The unknown of life after college was not something my high school counselor prepared me for.
“Don’t be afraid to live your life,” “chase your dreams,” “follow your heart.” Easier said than done. But even these cliché phrases have a point. Micah Soloman, a contributor to Forbes magazine, said millennials are looking for adventure and whatever comes their way. He is absolutely correct. Our generation is known for getting out in the world, being fearless and trying (really hard) to make some kind of difference in society.
I don’t know where I will be in five-years, let alone a year. But it was a sudden realization to know that there is not a certain guideline to life after college and there may not be a flashing sign urging me to merge left. However, giving up because I’m too afraid to move forward or stalling on the side of the road will get me nowhere. It simply can’t be an option if I want to go for what I set out to accomplish in the first place.
Now is the best time to take chances, make mistakes and learn from them, get even more involved with my passions, fall in love with new ideas, be creative, and, eventually, I’ll be on the right path.
As much as society may disagree, I don’t need to have every aspect of my life figured out by the time I’m 22. It’s not that I’m not confident in my knowledge or skills, or that I’m too lazy and indecisive to figure out what I want. In fact, it's quite the opposite, but I can still enjoy each passing day, learn more and build upon the foundation of my life to get to where I need to be.
Fear of the unknown isn’t just an Ashley problem, it’s a natural human worry. Only time will tell where I will end up, but I bet it will be somewhere great.