My life has been on hold for the last 7 months.
Shortly before my graduation last May, I learned that I would receive a grant to teach English in 2015. Of course, I was ecstatic—I’d be going to Brazil for almost a year—but because my position would begin next March, I had nine months to kill before departing.
Such an awkward period of time. In May, I had no plan. Important correction: the only plan in place was that I would be moving back home with my parents to suburban Minnesota and I would be anticipating departure in February. But I didn’t really like the idea of “killing time” for nine months. Isn’t that something that you do playing Candy Crush in the airport for a half hour?
What I’m about to write is not intended to be “self-helpy”; I wanted to share how I used this opportunity for pause to get a (partial) grip on my post-grad world. Friends of mine are doing a host of different things–some have started graduate school, others work in the non-profit sector, while others have entered corporate world. And some haven’t found a serious first job. No matter how professionally “together” we are, I see a common challenge across the board: how do we begin to navigate the real world once our clear schooling trajectory is done?
I decided to be intentional; I wanted to approach this transition as its own phase, not as a meaningless wait between point A and point B.
It’s a purposefulness prompted by my anxiety-ridden side, a side that does not do particularly well floundering or without clear direction (something that struck me hard after finishing college). I wanted to loosely organize my life in a way that didn’t waste this rare gift of time. Over the summer I decided to create some “guidelines” to help me take a step back from the average unhealthy and unsustainable lifestyle that I had in college. I had spent most of my senior year worrying about others and it was time to be selfish for a bit. I could use my pause as a kind of a productive personal reset before launching.
So I sat down and wrote an idealistic list of what I wanted out of my transition time. I put a realistic spin on things but tried to keep my options open. And, after taking a look at those, I grouped them into three big areas. They ended up being:
- “Work experience”—and saving money
- “Well-being”—whatever combination of self-care and fitness that meant
- “Miscellaneous”—essentially focusing on what made me happy.
I had the time and resources to do it, so why not? For the first few months, I wrote down what I planned on doing every week (ranging from “Drink wine with Aubrey” to “Go to weight-lifting class” to “Work from 9-5”) and tied it back to those three main goals. I developed a routine that tied into what I wanted.
So, seven months in, what can I say? I’m back home with my parents. I know that’s not an option for a lot of people—I’m lucky that I get along famously with my parents. Living at home has been easier because I know when I’ll be leaving. I found a full-time temp job this fall that I genuinely enjoy. I don’t have many friends in town but thank God for the ones that I do—they made me feel less like a middle-aged woman. My life is exactly as unsexy as it sounds.
What I ultimately learned, though, is that for me there really is no reset. I didn’t graduate college and magically transform into the fit, constantly-motivated superwoman I’d always dreamed of being. But I have actually taken a breath. I have shown myself that I can adjust my behaviors to meet goals, to make changes that make me happier, less stressed and I’ve practiced some simple ways in which I can begin to make sense of who I will be in the real world.
Moving forward, I want to keep tying my small mundane tasks/projects to the bigger picture. I established a loose blueprint for my time, which helped me to get my bearings, even if just for a bit before delving into a chaotic year. I know this strategy isn’t for everyone and that some people won’t have this opportunity for pause/reflection/gathering of shit, but damn I’m glad I didn’t let it go to waste.
Anne wrote this article for Flux, an online forum for those of us encountering adulthood. Anne is an “emerging adult” who finds solace in dancing hard, running easy and noshing on cheese. She’ll teach English in Brazil next year and is hoping to put her degrees in international and hispanic studies to use upon returning to the US.