A year ago today, I–like most of you have done earlier this month or plan to do later in the summer–walked across a stage, awkwardly shook the president of my university’s hand, and waited in anticipation for my degree to arrive in the mail . . . and, of course, it arrived about five months later than everyone else’s, but that’s for a different post.
May 18th, 2013 was the longest day of my life, as I was the eleventh to last to graduate, but it was also the most rewarding day of my life. I was the first in my family with a college degree, but, throughout the ceremony, my eyes sparkled with images of me working at a publishing house, editing, writing, and marketing for them, and my heart fluttered in anticipation thinking about this new mature world I was about the enter. Don’t get me wrong, ’14ers, it’s great to have these visions, dreams, and goals, and to be proud of your big accomplishment [you have official bragging rights now], but this is something I should’ve asked myself two months before I crossed that stage:
Am I ready for this?
I thought I was. Post-grad, and even a couple of months before, I searched high and low for the perfect job, went on countless interviews, networked with HR, and they seemed to like me, but here I am . . . a waitress at a chain restaurant. Of course, I was devastated and, honestly, humiliated in all the right ways:
- I have a degree, and I’m a waitress.
- I spent a butt-load just to get a quality education, and I’m a waitress.
- I almost penned a letter to my university requesting my money back, because I’m a waitress. [Kidding.]
Now that this year is coming full circle, the devastation and humiliation have subsided, and I wouldn’t change my serving experience for that office job I dreamt about last May 18th.
Like you, I shakily shook my university’s president’s hand, unsure of what was going to happen next. What do you mean I don’t have to attend classes? Bars actually have cover? The specials here are way more expensive than the ones at the campus bar! Why are all of my friends too busy to hang out like old times? It’s a very confusing time to fully adjust to the realities of the world and to find one’s place. Friends are going to get jobs, and it will be exciting, but the celebratory keg stands are out of the question . . . they work a 9-5 now. Friends are going to get engaged and help you plan a wedding, and it’ll be so rewarding to help the bride and groom on their special day, but it will also be one of the most stressful planning periods of your life. Shit, you might be the one getting the job and/or getting married, and congratulations to you, but here’s my posed question again:
Are you ready for this?
It took me a while to answer that question–actually, a good six months post-graduation. I still wanted to hang out with my friends, have a social life, but most importantly, I really wanted to find myself. I, like most grads that I know, felt lost.
Being a waitress may not be my life’s aspiration, or all that glamorous for that matter, but it has really been a life changing experience. Being the shy girl I was crossing the stage and barely tossing my cap up in the air when it was over [shit, I didn’t want to lose my decorated cap!], I have transformed into this social, outgoing butterfly just by being forced to interact with guests daily. I have learned the positives of quality customer service and the benefits of strategic marketing all from being a waitress for a little less than a year. I’ve discovered that I’m pretty good at this and I can make a pretty damn good living for myself by serving tables, but it still isn’t something I want to do for the rest of my life. I still aspire for something higher.
This job was the push I needed to grow, change, expand, become the Grace I always wanted to be. Would I have discovered myself in that office job? Probably not, I can only assume I’d still be extremely shy Grace.
Young Graduate, my advice to you, for the upcoming year, is to not be discouraged if you don’t get the first [or the second, or the third, or the two hundred and ninty-fourth] job you apply for. Take this time to grow; get out of your comfort zone, discover your passions, unleash your wild side, make new friends! Make this summer your growth period, and make it yours.
All in all, Young Graduate, discover the butterfly you’ve always wanted to be; after all, caterpillars aren’t caterpillars forever.
Congratulations, Class of 2014! You did it, now make this world your oyster.