Well the weather is beginning to turn. I’m sitting on my balcony wrapped in a nubby blanket, and the leaves on the tree near me are yellowing. I really enjoy autumn, but I’m not sure I’m ready for it to be here quite yet. Autumn is a reminder that time moves on. Leaves fall, the sun is around less and less, and before we know it, summer will be buried under the ice and snow that we adore so much here in Chicago. Lately it’s been reminding me, at the risk of sounding a bit dramatic, that time is speeding up, and I need to figure out who I am before I run out of it.
I graduated from college with an English degree a little over a year ago. Post-graduation, I moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee where I had a job working for an internationally-known sculptor. For a hectic seven weeks, I wrote press releases, newsletters, and grant requests, edited photos and filmed installations, and traveled across the country taking down exhibitions and meeting with potential buyers and heads of museums. Seven weeks in, I got laid off. I didn’t know anyone in the area except my roommate, a college friend of mine who was working as a waitress at the local dive bar. I spent months unemployed because I found that in Chatt, if you aren’t related to someone, you’re an outsider. And as a result, no one wanted to hire me. I was working as an intern for a publishing company, but it was unpaid. By October, I decided I needed to go home to Chicago. On Halloween I packed up all of my stuff, drove 12 hours, and moved back in with my parents.
I remember in high school the media started calling people my age the “boomerang generation” because of the way they went off to college and then, after graduation, moved back in with the ‘rents. I promised myself that I would be independent, make my own way in the world, and not rely on my parents for everything…and yet here I was, post-college, living in my parent’s guest room.
I spent a long time looking for jobs, finally landing a temp job doing data entry for a financial firm. That ended after a couple of months and I was back on the job search. One of my mom’s friends found me the job I have now doing data entry for a payroll company. I’ve been at this job for 7 months now.
My story is like so many other recent graduates out there these days. Recently, a friend told me she just feels lost. Like she doesn’t know who she is anymore since she graduated from college. That is how I have described myself quite frequently since donning my mortarboard. May 2009 was so beautiful and full of hope. I was so excited to “begin” my life. I am baffled by how I got to where I am today.
I’m blogging about this because I feel like it is a pretty common sentiment among my peers and those going through transition during this awful economic time. My story is one of thousands out there–maybe even tens of thousands…or more. I’m looking to answer these questions:
What is my identity now that I’m not a student anymore? I spent 17 years of my life in the education system. And I was good at it! Now I have to develop a completely new skill set, new goals, new outlook on life. How do I even begin going about that?
Who am I when I’m unemployed? Or, more applicable to my situation, who am I when I’m unhappy in my job? Our society places so much of our identity on our occupations. As a result, it has begun to color my outlook on meeting new people or seeing old friends because I know the inevitable question, “What do you do?” or “What are you doing these days?” is going to come up. I have difficulty finding the energy for it.
What can I do to make my life more fulfilling? I assumed (naively) that post-graduation I would find a job that had some aspect I enjoyed. I had this grand image of living in an exotic place, making interesting, creative friends, having stimulating conversations. It’s not that my life doesn’t have its happy moments, but most of the time, I feel as if I’m just marking time until I become that person I envisioned. A blog entry I read recently by Michael Hyatt stated that you should be moving towards something, not away from something else. Right now I am stagnant. What can I be moving toward?
I want to hear from all of you out there in similar situations as well. How are you coping? What are you doing to make your lives more interesting? What kind of person to you envision yourself being, and how are you doing making that a reality?