By Wes Koseki
This is the part no one told me about.
On a cold, damp day during the November after graduation, I collapsed to the floor. My body tightly curled into a ball with the carpet absorbing a steady stream of tears. I went to the wrong school. I studied a worthless major. I chose pointless involvements. I surrounded myself with undesirable people. Everyone else knows what they’re doing or is working to become something great and I am here, rotting away on my floor, contemplating a very scary, very real, very permanent solution. All brought on by the words: “We’ve decided to offer the position to someone else.”
I felt nothing during the days that followed. Waking up, eating, and breathing were merely going through the motions so I could end the day as soon as possible and then do it all over again. As much as everyone reminded me that “No one is hiring right now. Everyone is looking for work,” there were more reminders of where I had fallen short at every turn. It didn’t help that I was alone, making me powerless against internal negativity. My mom was traveling, my friends were working or away, and I felt it best not to bring down people who were excitedly starting up a new school year. Yet even the generic responses of “You’ll find something soon” or “You deserve a better job than that” would have been better than the silence that replied when I asked, “Why is this so difficult for me?” But then there was a whispered reply that grew into a crescendo.
I was inadequate.
I was inadequate in high school, which is how I ended up at UC Irvine instead of a “better” college (a “better” college is a myth, by the way). I was inadequate in math and science, which is why I studied an underestimated humanities major. I was inadequate as a friend, which is why I couldn’t reach out to anyone. I was inadequate as a boyfriend, which is why I couldn’t hold onto an otherwise solid relationship. I was inadequate in all my classes, which is why I didn’t graduate Summa Cum Genius. I was inadequate with interviews and writing resumes, which is why no one thinks I have experience.
This is how you doubt your friendships and your accomplishments.
This is how your goals and intentions slip further away.
This is how the world takes everything from you.
And this is how you take it back.
Adaptability began the moment I stepped back into my house. The college swagger immediately disappeared, as I had to adjust to living at home again, in the community where I grew up, with the expectation that this would only be home for about three months. Three months passed quickly without much progress towards a job or moving out. I did my share of complaining, but that didn’t cut it anymore. You can have results or excuses, but you can’t have both.
Over the course of a few months, I adapted my thinking away from thoughts of dismal absolution. Living at home is by no means permanent rather I’m lucky that my mom allowed me to come home so I can save my money for when I do move away. A luckless job search doesn’t mean I’ll never get any job, but I will be thankful and make the most of the one job that gives me a chance.
And in order to get that chance, I had to be tenacious.
Dale Carnegie, author of the work How To Win Friends And Influence People, said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
I started to keep a list of places I applied. That list continued to grow, time began to pass, and my confidence waned. The process lulled me into a job application sleep. Send a resume here, copy and paste your information there, receive an email confirming the company received your resume, receive an email from that company rejecting you (if you’re lucky).
One of my friends said, “You and I both know you won’t give up.”
You have to honor those who never gave up on you by continuing on just as much as you must refute those who have given up on you. I have to show people that this post-grad life is survivable just as I have to prove my neighbor, who rolled his eyes at my major, that I can be successful, even if it takes some time.
Tenacity shows confidence and desire, but not without drive and mobility.
During this time, running became a simple thing to look forward to. It was the one activity I completely controlled. I could go as far as I wanted, as long as I wanted, as quickly as I wanted. No interviews or resumes required just one foot in front of the other and it rewarded me with a small sense of accomplishment no matter how many jobs would reject me that day.
I realize running might not be the most popular way to settle your mind. However, the concept of one foot in front of the other applies nonetheless. Your strides don’t have to be long and it doesn’t matter if you can run one mile in six minutes or six miles in one minute, but the ability to push when every step causes you pain and every breath wants you to stop sends a reminder that you are human: a being that feels pain, yet continues to be mobile.
You’ll read about traveling or moving to a far off place in your twenties/post-graduate life because you’ll never get another chance. I have a hard time believing I’ll never have another chance to travel or move the second I hit thirty, but maybe I’m being naïve. While it’s difficult for some to just pack up and move to a new city, I respect those who can. They’ve embraced being adaptable and mobile and will no doubt look for a job tenaciously so they can continue to live the way they want. Go with them or let them know you’ll be right behind them.
Priorities, interests, and passions can shift just as much as your current location. Even if moving home seems like a step backwards, you can still move forward. Without the distraction of being in school, genuine interests surface and you’ll see what is really worth pursuing and what was only a temporary longing. Don’t consider how many Facebook likes you’ll get or how many times it will be reblogged and retweeted, because when you start improving yourself by doing what you truly enjoy, the sense of accomplishment is greater than any number of pixilated thumbs.
Adaptability, tenacity, and mobility have helped me navigate a very terrifying, daunting stretch of my life. Author Tom Bodett said, “In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” This is only a test, and like those three-hour finals, fifteen page papers, and endless lab practicals. It will come to an end, sometimes you’ll finish confidently, other times you won’t be so sure. Only this time, it’s not up to a professor or curve to decide if you passed or not. You decide.
It’s almost been a year since I graduated and, as I’m writing this, I still have not been offered a full-time job. However, since last year, I’ve hated myself, underestimated myself, and rebuilt myself through constant reminders that this is my life on my terms.
The cries of doubt from the outside are still quieter than the whispers of doubt created in your mind. You may break under the idea that you are useless, inadequate, and life after college will eat you alive and you’ll reach the point where the world will take everything from you.
That’s when the world will have to accept everything you have to offer.
Photo source: Wes Koseki