Everyone tells you in school that you need to prepare for the “real world”. We are told that once we graduate, we’ll be thrust into the “real world” and we’ll either thrive or we won’t. Moreover, we are told that we will be defined by our reaction to the pressures and uncertainties that lie there.
When I graduated back in 2014, I could only think of one thing: getting a job. That was the only thing that mattered, the thing I had been working towards. And luckily, I worked my butt off interning so that when I did finally graduate, I was offered a position. I thought I had made it. None of my other friends were being offered jobs and I felt special, like I had everything.
Once I began the job, however, things changed. Almost immediately, it didn’t feel right. My job was very much about thinking on my feet and adapting quickly to new personalities. I would go into work, dreading the day, wondering what horrors lied ahead. The pressure I felt was exacerbated when I began working for someone who, to put it kindly, didn’t know how to communicate without yelling and demeaning me.
Over the next few months, I became the unhappiest I’d ever been in my life. I was confused, asking myself constantly, “Am I supposed to hate my life this much?” I withdrew from my closest friends, not having the energy for much of anything. I felt like a robot, walking through my life, unaware of how I got there.
With my small amount of spare time, I sought comfort in books. I reread my favorites and happened to reread Meg Cabot’s Queen of Babble series. At the time I had originally read the series, I was just starting college and saw the books as those fun romances that only Meg Cabot could write. However, when I reread the books, I saw it from a completely different angle.
Queen of Babble follows Lizzie, a girl who has just graduated from college and is about to follow a boy she barely knows to England. She’s confused about what she wants in every respect, but wants to pretend she’s not, so she tells herself she’s in love and that that will fix everything. Halfway through, I related to Lizzie on a different level than any of Meg’s other protagonists. I had all the same feelings and insecurities. The story was not about finding a man, but about finding yourself as an adult.
I felt revitalized after reading the books again and it made me realize that it was my job to make myself happy. With that mindset, I was able to tune out everything else; what my parents wanted for me, what society told me I should want. I asked myself, “What’s going to make me happy?” and decided from that day forward that that’s what mattered most.
I ended up leaving my job and taking some time off to really think about what I wanted out of my life. Now, almost a year later, I’m in a job I love surrounded by people who respect and support me. I’m inspired everyday. What we’re not told in school is that we all deserve to be happy and that happiness means something different to every person. Meg Cabot reminded me that everyone feels lost after college and that pausing to find out what you really do want does not make you weak, but instead makes you strong.
[Image via Comedy Central]