I’ve always looked forward to Thanksgiving—from eating the food to spending time with family and friends who I don’t see as often as I wish I could. When I went off to college, Thanksgiving became bittersweet for me. I didn’t celebrate with my family for the first time because I had just started a retail job, and being away from them was hard. So in the years since, I’ve made coming home for the holidays a priority, and I prepare myself for all the (awkward) questions my relatives will have about my life away from home.
The first time I had an awkward Thanksgiving dinner conversation was during my senior year of college. The questions seemed unending: Where do you live? Do you have roommates? What are you studying? What do you plan on doing with your degree? Have you gotten a job offer yet? And that’s just a sampling of the many questions I found myself answering repeatedly throughout the day. Not only was it draining, but it was uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure about my career plans or what I’d be doing with my life. It wasn’t a conversation that I was ready to have.
I am one of the few people in my family to have graduated with a college degree. My cousins and I have made strides to break what some consider to be a family curse. Being a first generation college graduate comes with a lot of expectations and misconceptions. To my elders, going off to college is the golden ticket to a big six-figure job and fairy tale lifestyle. In reality (and as most college graduates can attest to), my post-grad life hasn’t been anything close to that.
After graduating from Howard University with a bachelors in marketing, I spent a year working for a non-profit. Inevitably, I quit because I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do longterm. Shortly after quitting, I began putting more energy into my freelance writing and my blog, and I’ve been much happier ever since. Of course, I’m not making consistent money like I was before, but I enjoy what I do. I look forward to doing it everyday, and that is the life I imagined for myself.
After I quit my job, the questions began to roll in.
No matter how many times I try to explain what I do for a living and that I’m still “using my degree” in a different way, it feels like most of my family never fully understands why I quit my job. They can’t seem to recognize that I’m making a legit income doing what I enjoy. Though writing and blogging started as a hobby, it has turned into a career, and contrary to their beliefs, I don’t waste time playing on the internet. When my relatives and I are all together on Thanksgiving this year, I expect the questioning to become even more intense.
What I’d like my family to understand is that I didn’t “waste” my degree, and I am not taking the easy way out by avoiding a “real” job. Also, they don’t need to pity me.
If anything, they should be happy that I found the courage to pursue what makes me happy. It’s been two years since I graduated from college, and this most recent year has been amazing because I’m following my instincts instead of the roadmap society laid out for for me. I may not wake up every morning, throw on professional clothes, and head to an office for eight hours, but I work hard everyday to get better at something I love and that allows me to provide for myself.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all that I’ve learned and experienced in my transition. And don’t get me wrong—I have a super supportive family. If something goes wrong, they always reassure me that everything will be okay. So if my family feels the need to dive deep into my career choices while I pass the stuffing, I’ll tell them that I’m happy, and that’s all that really matters.