One year ago today, on May 18, 2014, I graduated from Baker University. As my Facebook feed filled up with friends graduating this weekend, this fact weighed on me more than it normally does.
Looking back at my time in university, I realize I didn’t appreciate it nearly as much as I should have. Yes, I was (and still am) grateful that I was able to attend university. I know not everyone can say that. And yes, I was (and still am) grateful for my scholarship and parents’ help and my professors and classes and extra-curricular opportunities. I know I was lucky to have such a wonderful team around me and to graduate debt-free.
However, I took two things for granted in university. First, time. I thought I had no free time. Ha! If any college students are reading this, trust me, you have plenty of free time. Try working 45-50 hours a week with over an hour of commuting time while planning a cross-country move and then tell me how much free time you don’t have. Seriously, though, while your free time in college is limited, the quality of it is so much freer than after graduation when all those “real world” responsibilities kick in. Cherish it.
Second, I took for granted what would happen after graduation. You see, I did really well in university. My whole life, I have judged my self-worth on my academic performance. School was my job. I mean, I worked during university, but priority numero uno was always my education. I thought when I graduated what I did in university would matter. Don’t get me wrong — it does. That 4.0 GPA and those awards mattered at graduation, and they matter for my self-worth and for my parents and husband. But everyone else? Their interest stops at what degree I received.
All the accolades fade away. With the rising credentialism in society, my degree is not special. I’m just another college graduate — the same as someone who lived by the motto “Cs get degrees.”
Okay, I’m done whining about the system. I don’t want to let this post spiral too much.
If you asked Graduation Day Kate, what would she have said about where she would be one year after graduation? Well, she would have tittered off this list:
- Daniel’s immigration completed
- Married to Daniel
- Living on our own
- Undertaking her first “big girl” job
- Preparing for graduate school in the fall
- Having written one novel
Well…two out of six isn’t terrible. There’s an old adage, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I don’t know that I believe in a “God,” per se, but I do believe that life takes a million twists and turns, and every time we think we’re on track, it kicks us over to another one. So, where I am at one year after graduation?
- Still waiting on Daniel’s permanent residency
- Married to Daniel
- Almost living on our own (as of August)
- Applying for “big girl” jobs
- Starting my own business
- Having written (and preparing to publish!) one novel
While almost everything has taken a bit longer than I expected, and some goals I’ve traded for new ones, I can’t help but feel at peace with where I am now. I’ve had extra time to spend with my family and friends in Kansas, Daniel and I have had plenty of time to save and prepare for the next phase in our marriage, and I have grown professionally (at least in my indie author goals) faster than I thought possible.
Sometimes, I still expect to go back to school in the fall. It still hasn’t sunk in that this isn’t vacation — this is my life now. Will I go back to academia one day? Maybe. But I’m happy to take a few years to earn my stripes in the “real” world and work on my author-entrepreneur business. As much as I love being an academic, I know that I need to separate myself from that world, to do things for me, to learn that I don’t need grades to be fulfilled, to judge myself based on my character — not someone else’s judgment of my intellect.
One year out, I’m still a work-in-progress. And I always will be. And that’s okay. I’m 23 for goodness sake. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and I’ve barely started.
As the graduation speech I heard yesterday said, “In the phrase, ‘you can do anything you think you can do,’ it is what you think you can do that matters most. Figure out what you are passionate about, think you can do it, then go do it.”
If I studied my passions, English and Sociology, even when I knew they would not be as exciting to employers as job-specific degrees (ie: Marketing, Nursing, Accounting), surely I can live for them — no matter what the job market hands me in the meantime.
Living for passion? Chasing that full-time author dream? I think I can do that.