I’m at that point in my life, the point where I can no longer say that I just graduated. Spending the last 18 years of my life in school, it is so weird being out of academia. Even weirder is going to this thing called my job. Weirdest: no longer having summer vacation. (I mean how can they spoil you with 18 years of summer vacation and just expect you to adapt…)
This year I was essentially a freshman at adulting. At first — ok even now — I was filled with so many questions.
- Will I be living the NYC life everyone else seems to be living? I was moving back to NYC, which is home for me, but it’s different now. I am an adult in the city. The last time I actually lived in NYC, I was 18 and defined going out as: going to McDonalds with my friends and buying a McFlurry. Things have changed. I have changed. I want to live the NYC life and that (unfortunately) no longer includes those regular McDonalds outings.
- Who will be my friends in the city? Coming to NYC meant that I was moving away from what became my home and stayed that way for 4 years: Georgetown University. And the people, my best friends, who made Georgetown feel like home, were all staying in D.C. Who am I going to spend time my weekends with now that all my best friends are not 5 minutes away from me?
- Is my decision to work for EY the right one? I worked so hard to get to the job I have now. 18 years of grinding in school, just so I can get a job. I better have made the right choice otherwise what was it all for?
- How will I succeed at work? I am an academic and thrive in a classroom setting. Now I was being thrown into what seemed like the wild west — the professional world. 18 years of schooling will teach you how to succeed in school. The secrets of how to succeed professionally, however, was not something I knew yet. My toolkit felt empty. And that is terrifying.
- Will my life have a purpose? In college, I was running between class, student organizations, and internships. It wasn’t easy by any standards but I was fully immersed in everything I did and felt like it was all serving some purpose, had some value, enriched me in someway. When I started living in the “real world”, I was struggling just to make it past the daily grind. News Flash: Life doesn’t come with a syllabus explicitly stating what you can expect to get from it nor does it outline the pages of a the textbook you need to succeed. I felt directionless. I didn’t have that coveted 5 year plan because I didn’t really know where I wanted to be or who I wanted to be. The endless amount of options for what I could be doing next felt more like a burden and the lack of direction, left me paralyzed. All I knew was I wanted my life to follow a rhythm, but at that moment, I lagging one beat behind.
My life feels like it moves in waves. Some days, I am loving what I am working on, I see myself growing, I feel intellectually challenged, my superiors are complimenting me, my weekends are jam packed with fun activities surrounded by amazing friends, and my puns come naturally. Other days I hate my job, feel like robot could replace me, my managers are finding every single comma that’s out of place and grilling me about it, my weekends are me stuck at home watching all the things my “friends” didn’t invite me to, and my brain feels like it won’t ever be able to come up with something witty again.
Because of this cyclical nature of my life: the questions never fail to escape me, while the answers continue to refrain from me. One year of adulting has not made me some wise sage. In some ways it’s made me a jaded New Yorker and in other ways it’s made me a wide eyed Dips fascinated by what’s next. So, I may not have answers but I do have some realizations.
- I’m not living the NYC life. I’m not clubbing every weekend, or going out to eat at the bougiest places. But I realized that that’s probably not the life I really want to be living anyways. Don’t get me wrong, going out to dance and eating amazing food is so fun and I definitely indulge but I also love trips to museums and movie nights in my friends 600 Square foot apartment!
- My best friends are still my best friends! D.C. is not that far, just 4 hours away! And a simple phone call (yes, I actually call my friends — I mean I am 90s girl) makes all the difference! In many ways, the distance has shown me the value of these friendships even more. Plus, I’m in NYC, I was bound to meet new and interesting people. But beware when meeting new people, you will definitely feel like you are back at new student orientation (easily my least favorite part of college). The first things you were asked before were “which dorm building do you live in? Which school are you in? What are you planning on majoring in?” Now the questions are “where in the city do you live? Where do you work? What do you do?” Some things may never change, but that’s ok cause those questions may lead to some amazing friendshsips.
- Your first job doesn’t define your career. I have friends who have quit 11 months into their first job — such millennials. Also the attitude that school was only to get a job I realized is a view that is so narrow! Getting an education is so much more than getting a job; I can’t discount everything I learned, the relationships I formed, and the memories I made. Truth is, I don’t love my job. Some days I’m doing monotonous tasks and feel like I was hired because they needed some warm bodies (financial services consulting not always fun? Shocked me too!) But that does not mean I made a wrong decision. I do love aspects of my job because I am learning a lot and see myself growing professionally.
- Work is very different from school. The keys to success are not defined by a letter grade. Your year end review is not solely based on how much you can cram during finals week. It’s a holistic view of everything that you accomplished for the year. As for my toolkit, I quickly learned that it’s not empty because prior experience and school projects taught me how to learn quickly and think analytically which proved really valuable. Plus I was lucky enough to work around the phenomenal people who serve as invaluable mentors to me at work and in life in general!
- Purpose is a really hard one. I am still trying to find the thing that gets me jazzed up every morning and more importantly discover the kind of person I want to be. As debilitating as it may be, I think this “quarter life crisis” keeps me from falling into the trap of complacency. As for a five year plan, I realized I don’t need one and for the place I am in my life, it’s probably foolish to have one. What I do have are short term milestones that I want to accomplish and that gives me and my Type A-self some sanity. My quest for purpose continues but I have a few things that are helping me move towards what feels like the right direction. Becoming involved in organizations both inside my firm and outside allow me to be involved in missions I am passionate about. Through these organizations, I engage in dialogue with people who hold similar interests and learn more about certain issues and topics. Piggybacking off that, relationships have been instrumental in helping me in this quest. Everyone from friends to colleagues to random uber drivers have provided me with some insight. Just by listening and asking questions, I have come closer than I was before to learning more about myself. Equally important for me has been taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the city life. Giving myself this time allows me to reflect on my experiences and discern lessons learned, making that syllabus a little less needed.
Life transitions are not easy. It’s filled with uncertainty, anxiety,and a huge bill from starbucks. It is easy to feel like you have peaked in college because we do (I know I do, at least) tend to romanticize our past. But as a not so freshman in adulting, I can say that how we approach these uncertain times says a lot more about us! I can make what I have amazing or live in the past. And I definitely choose the former.