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I remember tossing my graduation cap in the air, not cheering or smiling. I didn’t really feel anything at all except dread. I hated the unknown. I hated change. And graduation day was exactly the start of that.
At my graduation party, I drank too much boxed wine while people congratulated and patted me on the back. For what? A piece of paper that essentially meant nothing? And then they asked me that one question that I hated more than anything in the entire world. ‘What’s your plan now?’
I majored in creative writing. I have no plan, lady.
For half a year I worked retail in the downtown area of D.C. I always arrived early with a cup of iced coffee in hand, ready to go, a smile plastered on my frozen face. At lunch, I sat alone with nothing but my turkey sandwich and my tears to keep me company. I was miserable and spent that half hour always googling ‘post graduation blues’. Google was right. I definitely, definitely had them.
I didn’t want to work retail. I felt like I was failing as I saw everyone around me work for CBS and great magazines as editors and even assistants. I felt so isolated from my peers, and I felt beneath everyone and everything.
And then one day, I put in my two weeks, leaving the retail job for a more ‘fancy’ job in Friendship Heights. I was ecstatic. Finally, I had something to tell my friends and family that wasn’t – ‘oh I’m working retail until I figure things out.’ I had a SALARY. ME. A SALARY.
I took the metro feeling fancy AF (lololol). It was sure to be a breeze, right? WRONG. Cue five months later and I was miserable. Even more miserable than working that retail job. At 23, I worked my ass off and got nothing in return. And when I made mistakes all hell broke loose in the office. I ran, I never walked. I sprinted to the copy machine making sure every client got what they needed. I answered every damn phone call.
I was running on caffeine, and nothing else. And then I snapped. I ended up in the ER with a panic attack that lasted five hours. That was the last straw. I put in my two weeks and I was done.
13 days into being 25, I’m now worlds away from being that anxious and sad 22 year old. I bet you’re wondering, well, what changed?
My mindset changed. I decided to stop working jobs that were causing my mental health to become a death chamber for my brain. I decided to stop being scared of the ‘what if’s’. I decided to start doing what I wanted, no matter what society deemed acceptable or not.
The career I wanted in writing? I went for it. I didn’t give up. I kept at it until I landed an internship. And then I kept at it for another ten months, until I landed a writer position.
It wasn’t all butterflies and smiles. It was hard. I struggled. I still suffered from anxiety, as I still do now.
But what changed was my acceptance of failure. Before, I tried so hard to be what everyone wanted me to be. Before, I tried so hard to be the image of perfection.
Now, I make mistakes and I try harder. Now, I fail, and I don’t beat myself up. Now, if I’m feeling overwhelmed, I take a mental health. I speak up when I’m feeling lost or scared.
What changed over the last three years is not the places or the people I have met along the way. What has changed, is me. What changed, is me finally putting myself first. What changed, is me deciding that I am worth it. That I deserve a happy life and a career that I adore. What changed, is the mindset of believing in myself again.