Over the winter, I posted a Snapchat story of my dogs. (So out of character for me, I know.) They always fall asleep at the same time every day, and I couldn’t resist snapping a shot. I posted the pic, put my phone down, and went back to staring at the job boards that had been consuming my free time and burning my retinas.
When I picked up my phone some time later, I saw that a friend of mine had sent a snap back with the caption “why are you posting in the middle of the day, do you even have a job?”
Now I will admit what happened next is rather dramatic, but keep in mind I was extremely burnt out, and I immediately burst into tears. Even my sweet little angel pups woke up from their naps and looked at me like honey, get it together.
I had just worked three doubles in a row at the restaurant and I was due back in a few hours for a dinner shift. When I wasn’t serving, I was at my computer pouring over job postings, cold emailing potential connections, and drafting cover letters.
Yet, to the naked eye, I didn’t even have a job.
I was beyond frustrated. I didn’t understand how I could be so physically and mentally exhausted but have all of my efforts feel so incredibly fruitless.
From that point on, I began to become paranoid about everything I did. Did the mothers I ran into at the gym go home and ask their kids why I was on an elliptical at 2pm and not at an office? Did my former classmates who saw me in all of my aproned glory wonder what I was doing with my life? I couldn’t tell if people were judging me for not having a full-time job or if this was completely in my head.
Either way, I didn’t want to find out.
So, I tried to go off the radar as much as I could. Tone down my social media use and double down on the job search as much as my free time would allow. There were more than a few days when my mother would try to get me to close the lid of my laptop and take a morning off.
“You’re going to give yourself an ulcer,” she would say, watching as each job lead led me to a dead end.
For several months straight, I felt like I was caught in a revolving door of interviews, rejections, and then starting the process all over again. The first “no” I received felt like a huge blow, but I slowly began to feel more resilient with the second, third, and so on.
I knew a yes was around the corner, I just had to be patient.
The thing is, is that I had to remind myself that I always knew a yes was around the corner. I just didn’t know which corner. I completely understood sophomore year what it was going to mean for me to declare my English major and journalism minor. It would mean explaining my career goals over and over, convincing people I was not wasting my parents’ money, and my studies not being taken seriously, even if I was reading and writing until the sun came up.
I was alright with all of that, though, because I knew this field was the only one that would make me happy. At the end of the day, it is the only career path I foresee for myself, so why run away from that feeling because another major promised a higher potential salary?
I didn’t care about money then, and I don’t now. Of course I want to be able to provide a comfortable life for myself, but money has never and will never be the driving factor in my career path.
Not everyone can be very understanding of that mentality, however. In fact, a lot of people felt like they could fill in the blanks for me before I even had a chance to.
I remember there was one night at the bar last year when an acquaintance came up to me to while I was waiting to buy a drink. He asked me how I had been, and I said that I was happy that my finals were over.
“Wait, aren’t you an English major?” he asked, staring at me as if I was an extra hard sudoku puzzle.
“You have finals? What even are they, like spelling tests?” he laughed. Shockingly enough, I didn’t find that comment to be very funny.
I may or may not have called him an asshole and told him that he could pass the vodka soda he assumed I wanted to the business major to his left, but you weren’t there. So we can pretend I gracefully bowed out of the conversation and strutted away, right?
Anyway, the moral of the story here is that I understood from Day 1 that this would be a challenge. I tried not to be too sensitive about what other people said, but sometimes I did break when I felt I was already being bent a little too far.
Although I am thrilled to say that I have finally found a wonderful position in my field, I can’t address that excitement without acknowledging that it has not been easy. I am still so grateful I was able to choose the path that I did, and it has been the greatest privilege of my life thus far.
The blood, sweat, and tears – at risk of sounding totally cliche – have all been worth it, because these feelings of humility and appreciation have taught me a lot about myself. Even though my first instinct was always to sugar coat my situation until it resembled something professional, there is no running away from the fact that I wasn’t being true to myself.
Yes, I chose what some may consider an unrealistic major and I don’t regret it. No, I did not have a job lined up after college. And yes, I waitressed my way through life until I got the one I wanted. That’s it, that’s the whole story.
And it feels really good to say it.