This is a guest post by Brittany Spear for Student Stories.
I’ve been told time and time again that college is our greatest time for growth and change – but I disagree. While college is a place with a wealth of opportunity for new experiences and ways to grow your character, it was nothing in comparison to the experiences that awaited me in the post-graduation world of job searches, work, and discovery.
A year ago, I was sitting in my senior year college house, a month away from graduation and still jobless, having just been turned down from the two full-time jobs I had been applying to for the past two months. I had no plan, no direction, and no idea what I was doing. In a few words, I was half-paralyzed with fear over the undetermined future before me.
A year later, I’ve applied for hundreds of different jobs via internet searches, Craigslist, local listings, and list serves; interviewed for approximately twenty of them; accepted five of them; worked four of them; and moved from Ohio to Washington D.C. to Maine and then to Iowa, with the intention of moving to Virginia after a three-week stay in Costa Rica. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
My turn-filled journey placed me as an unpaid intern for an online magazine; as a mess mate aboard the Mary Day, a 90 foot schooner in the Penobscot Bay of Maine; as a copy writer and quality assurance specialist for an advertising company in Iowa; and as a server at a local brewery, with a job as a group leader at an alternative school in Virginia lined up. I have quit an internship, left a job due to the closing of the season, been laid off due to company restructuring, and have had to leave another job due to an impending move, all in less time than it takes to complete freshman year.
I’ve turned down an intriguing, well-paying, long-term office job in Washington D.C. in order to work for a month and a half as an assistant cook on a boat, trading a cozy existence for the adventure of a lifetime because I was finally free to do so. I’ve seen the beautiful expanse of the Milky Way while treading water in the Penobscot Bay at night as my steadily paddling hands trailed iridescent phosphorescent light. I’ve experienced the rising of the sun along the bay as I’ve woken up to start working at 6:00AM, not stopping until the dinner dishes were done at 8:45PM, learning how to push through long hours.
I’ve climbed to the top of the mast of a schooner and felt like I was on top of the world as I looked into the open horizon before me. I’ve learned to cook while standing on a floor at a 40 degree angle while wind whips into the ship’s sails. I’ve been seasick, dealt with long hours and tasking demands, been cut off from the Internet for days at a time, and been rewarded with amazing memories time and time again all because I decided to Google “adventure jobs” and see where one might take me.
I’ve moved halfway across the country just to see what it was like to live in Iowa, to work at an office job, and to live on my own, doing a complete 180 from the adventuring, service-oriented job I had grown to love. I’ve put my creative writing degree to practice, writing copy for hundreds of websites and proofreading hundreds more. I’ve experienced the loneliness that comes with living on your own in a new city in a new state, with no one you know within a 150 mile radius, and learned how to cope with those feelings by finding new hobbies and activities. I’ve learned how to make friends from random chances and in the most unlikely of places, learning that it’s not where you are living that makes the experience but who you meet and who you are with.
I’ve had doubts and worries about what I’ve wanted to do with my life, comparing myself to the successes of my peers and feeling like I was falling short. I’ve faced indecision time and time again over my choices like any other 20-something is bound to do. I‘ve learned that an office job just isn’t for me. And I’ve learned how to sit down, take a hard look in the mirror, and figure out what I really want.
What I really want might change in a month or a year. Maybe it’ll take two years, or five. But the change I’ve experienced in the past year has shown me that it’s okay to change your mind and to grow as a person, to crave new experiences and a new way of life, regardless of how long you’ve been in your current place. So while I’m extremely excited to be heading into a job as a group leader and along a path that I could viably see turning into a career, I feel safe in the notion that I can always change my mind down the road.
A year ago, I was anxious and stressed out, confined to the belief that the best four years of my life, the four years that would be filled with the best experiences and the most tremendous growth, had just passed me by. But living in the world outside of the prescribed path for just a year has exposed me to more fantastical things, more change, and more growth than I feel that some people experience in their entire lifetime. All it took was the courage to see past expectation and free fall into the exciting unknown.
My year in flux allowed me to take a hard look at what I might want while exposing me to many different types of lifestyle, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Sometimes wandering off of the beaten path is what helps you find where you are truly meant to wander.
About the Author:
Brittany Spear is a recent college graduate on a continuous search for meaning, fun, and adventure in her jobs and her life. In her spare time, she enjoys writing fiction and planning her next travel adventure. You can follow Brittany’s latest adventure on her blog.