Next Steps

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About a month before I graduated from college, I panicked. I’d spent four years studying, going to class and work (3 jobs at once!), writing more papers than I could count, and then I realized–I don’t want to do this. I don’t have what it takes to succeed in this field. I don’t have the personality that potential employers are looking for in college grads.

Because I was panicking, I reached out–not to my parents, but to my adviser. Because I thought she’d have some insight. That she’d tell me what I needed to do–sad to say, but I don’t think that going to college taught me how to be a free thinker; it made me even more insecure and instilled in me a desire to be told what to do.

“I think you need more time,” she said.

She also said she didn’t think I’d be successful. In grad school, specifically, but maybe she meant in general. It felt like she meant in general. It’s hard to hear someone who you trust say that they don’t think you will be successful, whether it be academics, a professional career, or life at large.

I started crying in her office and I don’t think I’ve really stopped in the three and a half years since graduation. As I walked across the stage at the Breslin Center, I was handed a rolled-up proxy diploma. I was supposed to step up to a line, smile, and wave into the camera so all the people in attendance could see how happy I was to be a graduate of Michigan State University. I stepped up to the line, smiled quickly, then stared into the camera as my face fell. My family, with their cameras pointed at the jumbotron, laughed about it–typical Shelby.

I wasn’t happy to be graduating. People were going on and on about the world being our oyster, how the future was ours for the taking, and think now about what you can do for the world, #spartanswill. All I could think about was how I would literally be going back to my parents’ basement to look for jobs in a field I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in. I could go to graduate school, but for what? I had already devoted the majority of my life to school–and I had worked my ass off. And now I was facing an indeterminate amount of time before I could be gainfully employed and able to move on with my life.

It took forever. For every twenty jobs I applied to, I only heard back from one, and fewer than one were actually requests for a phone or in-person interview. My self-esteem and self-worth crashed horribly during this period. I took what was supposed to be a temporary job at a restaurant just because I had to do something. I was there for over a year before I was hired as a secretary somewhere else.

Over this three-year period, starting about six months after I graduated, my parents–but mom especially–started bringing up graduate school. That I should think about applying. That maybe it will help me get a better job. Don’t worry about the money. If you want to go, go.

And the whole time that was going on, I was flip-flopping on the issue myself: I want to go. I won’t be successful. I miss school. What would I even study? I want to teach writing at a community college. A Master’s degree is going to overqualify me and then I really will struggle with finding a job. I’m going to prepare my writing samples this week! I’m worried about the money and the time.

I never did go. What it came down to was the money, the time, and the fact that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a better-paying job with a graduate degree. My current employers are famous for never giving their employees a raise–how can I afford grad school? I’ve spent so much time in school already; can’t I just move on with my life?

And to be honest, I am still not sure that a Master’s degree will help me find a job that will pay me a good salary.

But I’m going.

I caved a few weeks ago and applied to a graduate program at the local business college. For a Master of Science in Finance. I got in. And furthermore, I found a program that works for me. I could have started taking classes immediately, but I decided that I will start in January.

This is my next step. I don’t know what it will bring–but just about anything is better than what I have going on in my life right now.

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