It was only a year ago that I was feeling antsy about this real world lifestyle, knowing that working hard was a not a skill people put on resumes. I knew I would work tirelessly, that I would do anything I could to learn and grow and be someone worth putting faith into, but did the human resources professionals of the Eastern seaboard know that? Well, I wasn’t sure.
Yesterday, a friend of mine admitted to a fear quite similar. And as they say, it’s easier to look objectively from the outside in. I knew, deep down, she was golden. Just brimming with energy and passion and experience. Her resume, in the right hands, will be understood and appreciated.
This post I wrote nearly two years ago, for all the worriers and anxiety-ridden recent and future college graduates who have no idea what will become of their lives in these coming months.
The future is 34 pushpins pressed into a map of the United States.
It doesn’t matter how precisely we press each pin into that cork backing. The future is shy and unforgiving and anticipatory and utterly unknowable.
My roommate stood next to her map, cupped her forearms around a cluster of pins along the West coast.
“Probability says California,” she said to me.
I nodded, trying to imagine her in the sunny state, me in New York City and our other roommate in Washington, DC.
It’s funny how one home transitions into another. In five years, I have found myself in Pennsylvania and Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland. Looking back, it’s seamless. But when I was at the edge of each cliff, eager and nervous to jump, it was like the first time I realized the world was in constant motion.
For all those moments leading up to a big, shifting change, we’re too busy preparing and pushing onward to think about what happens when our parents unload the trunk and cart our luggage up stairs and shut the door, leaving us alone for the first time.
For three years and eight months, the idea of graduating college is just that – an idea. And then, someone pulls out the big G word and it’s everything again.
We feel it rising up from the pit in our stomachs like a wave of nausea forcing you to sit down and center yourself on that pushpin-invested map. Begging you to regain balance and stability for just a while longer.
“Where will I be in the future?” we wonder.
“You’ll live on the lake,” I told her then. “I can picture it.”
And I could, then. The forests rising up on three sides. A vast expanse of murky water in front of her. The laughter of children in the background.
I saw her stretch out on the shoreline, digging her toes into the grass and dirt. I saw her put down her book to crane her neck, motioning her daughter to come to her.
“Do you want to go for a swim?” she asked.
The girl, her hair as white-blonde as her mother’s, nodded vehemently and tugged her t-shirt over her head.
She reached the line where the water meets land, lifted one foot, and frowned.
“What’s wrong?” her mother asked.
The girl shook her head and started back toward the spot on the grass where her mom stretched out.
“It’s too cold,” she said.
Her mom sets her book down. “How do you know?”
She shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t know.
The two of them walked to the edge. Holding hands, they took a deep breath and waded, gently, into the murky water. A fish swam past and the little girl squealed, latching onto her mother’s leg.
After a moment, she released her grasp. She waded out farther and, without warning, dove under the water. When she emerged, she brushed her hair back and giggled.
“Brrr,” she said. “It’s warmer in the water.”
It’s the first moment that will string together a couple thousand others. The initial shock of icy water filling her lungs grew into a comfort. It’s warmer in the water. What once was cold and terrifying and new became familiar and wanted.
Only one of those pushpins became home for my roommate. She did not, contrary to probability, end up anywhere near California. But where she lives now, there is a lake with icy water. And try as she might, she won’t be able to emerge without shivering. She’ll learn, in these few years, it’s warmer in the water.
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