I’ve been out of college for almost two full months now, and even though it doesn’t seem like much time at all when I say it like that, it feels like a lot of time to me. Maybe it’s because I started looking for jobs way, way before then, maybe it’s because time passes slowly in the summer, or maybe it’s because I’ve never lacked direction in my life for this long a period of time. But here we are towards the end of the summer, and I’m still living at home with my (amazingly supportive) parents, with no sign of a real job. And by real, I mean one that pays money.
I have started to truly dread the “Oh you just graduated! So what are you doing now?” questions. I feel like I’m not doing anything. Which, for someone who’s always gotten top grades and excelled in most things she’s tried, sounds an awful lot like failure (if you’ll please pardon the humble brag).
It took my mother of all people to point out that I’m not “not doing anything.” I do have a paid (not very much) internship once a week that’s earning me a lot of portfolio pieces and some great contacts. I’m writing every single day. I’ve been exercising regularly. I’ve started a tumblr and a blog (thanks for reading). And yeah, I watch a decent amount of Netflix, but I’m also still applying to jobs and making the most out of my time until I find one.
So why do I still sometimes feel like I’m failing something? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m actually having a lot of fun this summer. I just feel like I’m doing something wrong. Why?
Well, possibly because I’ve spent most of my life doing, you know, school. Where everything is tests, until you get to college and it then becomes papers, but it’s all still focused on grades, always. There are things you’re supposed to be doing. Classes you’re supposed to take. Professors you’re supposed to develop relationships with. Activities you’re supposed to get involved in. And I’ve always been an overachiever, even when it was probably not a good idea. I wrote two senior theses, after all, when I absolutely did not have to. And I’m glad I did, but that’s because I’m an overachiever who’s managed to forget about the big chunk of sanity it cost. I’m used to having things I’m supposed to do and going above and beyond them every so often just for the hell of it.
Moving back in with my parents does not fit that category.
And yet. And yet, I’m slowly getting used to the idea that maybe the adult world is less like school and more like Pirates of the Caribbean: “The only rules out here are what a man can do and what a man can’t do.” It isn’t about what you should be doing, it’s about what you want to be doing and what you’re able to do and what’s good for you right now.
It’s entirely possible that other people who did not go to a school whose unofficial motto is “Where Fun Comes to Die” actually learned this lesson a long time ago. But I’m going to try to not feel like I am failing at that, too. Because in the end, you are where you are in your life. There will always be people ahead of you and people behind you, and who those people are will change with whatever rubric you’re using. So instead, maybe it’s better to throw out all rubrics, accept the fact that life is not a competition, and just go about trying to navigate your world.
This summer is a good summer. I’ve been enjoying it. And that’s the important thing.
So with that, I’m going to go and write a short story inspired by an Avril Lavigne song. Because I can.
(For more of my short stories based on pop songs, check out my Tumblr here)