Dear Fellow Mountaineer Grads (and all recent grads for that matter),
I am writing to you today to share with you the five words I wish someone would have told me. As an alumnae of three years, no one has uttered them to me. I’ve needed to hear them countless times. I needed someone to look me in the eyes and just tell me it. But in true finding my own way fashion, I had to figure it out. And so this post is my way of “looking you in the eyes” and giving you the honest to God’s truth in hopes of giving you comfort.
What I am about to type is the truth. Write it down somewhere. Say it out loud. Hold it close to your heart. Repeat it on your bad days. Don’t let go of these five words:
IT’S OK NOT TO KNOW
No seriously – did you hear me? It’s okay not to know. Not to know what you want to be, where you want to live, who you want to be with, when you want to be there, how you have to get there. It’s ok not to know any of that. And truthfully, you may never feel like you know all of that and that’s ok too.
Let me break it down. When I left WVU and hung up my grad cap, I was heartbroken. I wasn’t ready to go. I loved Morgantown with every fiber of my being. It was home and I was comfortable. But after four years, it was time for me to figure out my next move. So I left with lofty dreams and little direction. I had burnt myself out as an undergrad student (I worked as an RA, TA, social media intern for WVU, PR intern for Make-A-Wish WV, held a freelance job with Make-A-Wish, J-School student ambassador, ran a student organization, and took 18 credit hours my senior year) and wasn’t quite ready to jump into a graduate degree. Hell, let’s be real – I didn’t have the energy. So, I headed to Michigan (for a relationship..that’s another story), landed a temporary role with Make-A-Wish Michigan and ended up in my current role with the University of Michigan, where I’ve been for three years.
Now, let’s chat about these past three years. *Deep breath*
It has been the furthest thing from easy. I have cried a lot. I’ve missed WVU (especially on football Saturdays), I’ve missed Morgantown, and I’ve felt left out and directionless more days than not. I watched my friends go after master’s degrees, law degrees, exciting job opportunities, and basically start next chapters. Everyone seemed to be changing and growing and I felt stuck. There have been numerous breakdowns and homesick calls to my mom. There’s even been multiple job applications sent out in frantic concern that I wasn’t growing anymore.
It wasn’t until the beginning of 2016 when I have fully started to accept: IT’S OK NOT TO KNOW.
As I have recently (sort of) stumbled upon figuring out the direction I want to go, I’ve realized every single day of the past three years has gotten me closer to finding my passion. Think about it: my one decision of deciding not to go to grad school led me to Michigan where I found RainCatchers and ended up in Haiti. Woah! Even those tough days in between, when I wanted to quit, move home, and give up have helped me build my tomorrow.
When I started my job at Michigan, I took on a very minimal role. I solely wrote speeches and programs for ceremonies. And now? I’ve taken on social media and a development blog on top of my original responsibilities and have evolved my position to better fit my career aspirations. My tip? If you’re not in your dream job, hold tight. Get in there, work hard, and network. See if you can build your role out to better fit what you want to be doing. Try other work. Use today and your “right now” to build where you want to be.
Second, because of my decision to come to Michigan I found Haiti and my passion for global health. If I would have went straight to grad school, I would have aligned my degree choice with my undergraduate career. When I left college, I felt like I knew just about every job I could get out there and do. However, my three years in the workforce has exposed me to so many new passions and opportunities. Because of that, I now have a MUCH better idea what my next step is.
Third, the last three years has taught me that home is where you make it. After college, you may never feel “completely” at home again and that’s ok. But look around. Home is where you invest yourself. If you’re in a new town, submerge yourself in your community. You’re not alone and there are people there that love you/will love you. Build relationships and accept where you are.
Finally, know that FOMO is real. Look, I’m as bad as anyone making my life seem perfect on social media. But do yourself a favor and try to remind yourself we all don’t have it figured out. It may look like it, but I promise even your favorite instagrammer has their bad days and second guesses.
I will leave you with this: Your future isn’t built overnight. Opportunities are harder to come by than in college and take hard work. But the good news is you’re a Mountaineer. You’re equipped for the climb.