Throughout college I was focused on the next step. School had logical steps: from assignment to exam to the next class. If I could just complete one step and move on to the next, I would always be moving forward. I knew that I passed by following the rules and getting good grades. Things were predictable and I felt secure in following these steps. Would always knowing the next step in life help me with finding a job after college?
The closer and closer I got to graduation, the more my focus on the next step slipped. I tried to focus on the next class and the next assignment. But a looming dread was taking over my brain. Eventually my stomach was perpetually in knots and I had trouble sleeping. I’d wake at 3 a.m. feeling like finding a job after college was of the utmost importance at that exact moment. The next step, graduation, did not seem like a next step at all. It felt as if I had to prepare for the rest of my life.
Finding a Job After College
I think it started sometime at the end of sophomore year. That time was especially busy as I applied to study abroad my junior year, and I juggled classes with extracurricular and my own emotional needs. Gradually the panic to figure out my life escalated as I prepared to leave Kenyon and enter this “real world” people kept talking about. I would be booted out of academia and moved into the cutthroat day-to-day of living for the rest of my life.
At least that’s how it felt sometimes. I thought I had to pick the right track to go down. If I didn’t, my life would terrible and all the hard work I put in at school would be for nothing. All the preparation of picking a school and classes and learning from professors and peers would be a constant taunt to my failed decision if I chose the wrong path.
I now realize that I had stopped thinking about the next step. I feared committing to a career and being stuck with it forever. And even now I still struggle with trying to figure out the rest of my life. But how can I figure out what will happen years into the future? I cannot know how every single one of my present decisions will affect the life to come. At the beginning of college I could not have imagined the friendships I would form and the adventures I would have. As much as I may be afraid of the future, so many good things can come. But my present steps are not easy. It’s in hindsight that the narrative becomes something amazing.
What Do I Want To Do With My Life?
A year ago I was worried about completing college. And now I know that I survived it, that I accomplished something, and that I’m still moving forward. It takes slogging through life to get to the next step, but focusing on the next step keeps me from being paralyzed by the vast thought of the entire future and its possibilities.
So I do not have to figure out what to do for the rest of my life, but instead figure out what to do next in life. Telling myself this calms me down from panic. I can think of what I can do next, to try something that may benefit me. Because even if it is not the perfect fit of a job, at least I am learning and gaining some experience.
It is scary to think that the next steps are much more uncertain than they were in my school career. In “real life” outside of school I am moving toward something, but exactly what the future holds is a mystery. Perhaps that is all they were trying to prepare us for when tackling the “real world,” to face what seems so uncertain without clear structure of rules, and yet to learn and to try and to keep growing. It takes practice and persistence. I think that is what going step by step instills. So there may not be one right answer, but I can build off of the experiences gained and lessons learned at each step. I can make a life.
Figuring Out The First Step Out Of College
Right now one of my next steps includes job finding to try out a career in a different path. In my terror of picking one way to live for the rest of my life while finishing up my studies at Kenyon, I missed some opportunities to explore those career tracks. And yet it is not too late. I have a paying job, an important step to paying back student loans and to learn more lessons about work. These choices do not have to be perfect ones. They can’t be. So I will work with them.
College life was four years of my sixteen years in school. While it is a big transition to go from student to graduate, it does not mean that each part of my life is so inflexible that I am always defined by one part. Going into the real world does not prevent me from ever learning and changing. I take my college life with me in the lessons I learned and the mentorships and friendships I carry with me. I’m a writer, a reader, now a blogger, and who knows what else I will add to that list. I will find out. There are many possibilities and many ways to keep moving forward in life, one step at a time.