The day after I finished graduate school was the day I drove down to Los Angeles to start my new life. Unlike the standard post-grad experience, sending out applications, friendly emails, and watching your inbox pile up with student loan company emails, I landed myself not just any job, but the job only two weeks before graduation. The year leading up to the end of college had been filled with a number of panic attacks at the thought of walking into the unknown. So when I was presented with an opportunity to bypass the in-between stage of college and work, the trench of uncertainty, to work for a company that was on the top of my list, I gave them an immediate yes.
I hadn’t come across the position on a whim. I had interned for the company the previous summer and stayed friendly with a few staff throughout the year. I’m a confident person, I work hard and I feel capable, but the thought of being picked out of a large pool of candidates wasn’t the reality I had planned on so early in my life. Sure enough though, after emails, phone calls, and a long interview, I was offered a full-time position.
After handing in my thesis, I stuffed the last box in my very full rental car and made the journey from Seattle to Los Angeles. Looking back on those final two weeks and the drive south, a part of me is grateful that things happened as suddenly as they did. If you’re someone who has difficulty with change, diving in and then trying to make sense of your situation can be more helpful than dipping your toes and catching a glimpse of how scary your new path may be. The fast-paced nature didn’t allow me any time to stop and think about the implications of what I was embarking on: A new city, new day-to-day life, no friends, financial independence, and being in a long distance relationship for the next year and a half. If I had taken a moment to sit still and reflect on the immensity of change that was about to take place, there’s a very good chance I would have backed out.
After a year though, I’ve realized that there is no easy way to confront these inevitable changes. Although they may come in different forms and during different parts of life, any change at any time can shake us up, and there is no way to bypass its uncomfortable nature. All that matters is having faith in your own capabilities and processing your emotions as they fly unpredictably, and irritatingly at you. Although I’m able to view my situation in this light now, I didn’t always see it this way.
There are a lot of adjustments associated with working a full-time job. It can be hard even if you don’t tack on a move and finding a new community. My dream job started to become less of a dream when I realized that the majority of my waking hours would be spent at this one place, which placed a lot of pressure on finding fulfillment within one small building and its inhabitants. At first I was overcome with dread. The idea that this is how the rest of my life would be, 40 hours a week with a handful of vacation days for the entire year and for every year to come after that. I’m a homebody and if I had it my way, I would spend the majority of my time at home to appreciate my space and enjoy cup after cup of coffee. After all, most of college is spent studying but with the freedom to do so anywhere you like. You don’t realize how much free time you have, even if you work, until you’re in the middle of a standard, 9-5, Monday-Friday job.
That being said, sometimes what looks good on paper isn’t totally worth the work. For those of us who decided on private school, public university looks pretty damn good after seeing the amount of debt you’ve racked up. The same goes for work and just about every other aspect of life. If I’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s that sometimes what sounds good to say or good to write may not be worth it. I moved for a job away from family and friends without realizing how much value I placed on them. As a result, I’ve had to deal with the inevitable feelings of loneliness and ultimately decide whether or not the dream job is worth grappling with the uncomfortable nature of being alone.
These seemingly menial realizations heightened my sense of insecurity in the decision I had made. Further inflamed by the harsh awareness that even dream jobs have their boring, bad, and tiresome days. The idea that I had left behind all sense of familiarity to work through these so-called slow and boring days was a total shock to my system. I immediately longed for the hills of Seattle, its clean air, rain, and overgrowth of green (trees not marijuana). I missed its compact walkability, cozy coffee shops, and although I visited the beach on the weekends, I missed the cold waters of the PNW. This was not the dream I had built my new job up to be, and it took me almost a year to sort through my frustration and what I deemed regret.
Despite what I would consider chaos, personal chaos, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to never give up on finding joy. If I’ve learned anything about change from this experience, it’s that finding joy is a trial and error process that needs a great deal of patience but is worth it in the end. Do I like Los Angeles or my job? Not all the time, but they both have their days. I’ve started to work for the benefits of my job that allow me to pursue fulfillment outside of work rather than making my happiness dependent on the 9-5 hours. Success for me means having the ability to enjoy my surroundings and indulge in creativity. My day job allows me to do that. It’s taken a year, but I’ve learned that my job is the dream job not because of the company that it is, but because it provides me the privilege to go home and think about my aspirations. It’s taken me a year to morph my perspective to look at my situation in this bigger light from all sorts of angles.
Ultimately, I don’t believe I could have handled taking time off, throwing caution to the wind and having faith that life would pan out. Nor could I have financially swung that route. As a recent post-grad, the transition from being spoon-fed a schedule and four plus years to explore your interests with little consequences, going out into the unknown would be too jarring. There’s a sense of security that comes from knowing what each week is going to look like, and for me that sense of security is necessary for my well-being. But I’m also finding that security can come from other areas. Security can be found by reflecting on some of life’s big questions. What does it mean to make it? To be successful? If I land my dream job, do my dreams stop there? If I’m going to work the standard workweek, what do I want my outside life to look like to make the whole thing worth it? When you’re in college, you have mini, achievable goals that you can cross off after each quarter. If I’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s that your post-grad goals are much grander, require more thought, and need patience. Sometimes making it doesn’t have anything to do with the job. Finding comfort with yourself and your surroundings is more successful than a title.
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Samantha Ladwig is a writer, book reviewer, and the owner of Imprint Bookstore in Port Townsend, Washington. Her work has been published by New York Magazine, Bustle, Real Simple, Vice, Bust Magazine, and others. Find her at www.samanthaladwig.com.