This past Saturday, I returned to my alma mater to watch the Class of 2012 graduate. It was definitely a weird feeling knowing that just a year ago, I was in their shoes.
One year ago, on this day, I graduated with as B.S. in Chemical Engineering.
Needless to say, I remember the graduation ceremony itself being extremely anticlimactic. Being on the Class Gift Committee, I spoke during the ceremony on behalf of the class gift and got to take a picture with the university President holding the big class gift check. At the end of that day, there were no tears from me. I told everyone that was crying that “I’m not dying and I’m sure that I’ll see you next month”. Like many people, I had mentally graduated and checked out long before my senior year even started. In fact, I had started cleaning my room out right before winter break senior year. I remember the last couple of months leading up to graduation being so weird. Like it wasn’t real life. Friendships were starting to deteriorate, there was too much drama, too much uncertainty. Everyone was just trying to find a way to quietly slip away from the reality that our reality was coming to an end. Second semester, as soon as Spring hit, me and my neighbor downstairs (also another senior in my sorority) would sit on our stoop, blast music, drink, people-watch, and reminisce. We did this pretty much everyday, as soon as we got out of class. We would talk to anyone that walked by and invite them to join us. Literally stoopin’ until the streetlights came on. Occasionally we had a random cat join us that we named Stoop Cat.
Meet Stoop Cap: Will hang out for a slice of bologna.
I welcomed graduation, like it would be this huge life-changing event, and I would magically transform into a different person. But alas, I drove away from my empty apartment on May 28, 2011 – still holding on that past, with no idea on how to let go and transition into ‘adulthood’. There were apologies from people that were never given and unanswered questions. I spent the months of June and half of July 2011 back home in MD trying to regroup, and then I moved back up to MA to start my new, fresh-out-of-college engineering job.
My summer before my senior year, I interned at a wastewater treatment plant in MD. My boss would always inquire what I really wanted to do with my life. The only thing I could think about was getting the hell out of MA and away from everyone and everything I knew. I wanted to start over again. I researched grad schools’ environmental engineering programs and started studying for the GRE. My parents can attest to the fact that I always said I wanted to be a teacher “when I grew up”. I did my research and in Fall 2010, I applied to Teach For America [I also took the GRE]. Throughout the whole application process (application, phone interview, and final in-person interview), I was told how there needed to be an increase in ‘minority teachers’ and teachers from STEM backgrounds. What? I get to change lives by teaching and move to a completely new, different place and work with people my age group?! Sign me up!
Well, I guess that’s why people tell you not to put all your eggs into one basket because there I was, April 4, 2011, as I opened up my rejection email: feeling lied to, disappointed, confused and stressed. I didn’t sleep that night – I instead began to apply to engineering jobs aimlessly, not caring where I ended up. I’m the type of person that remembers EVERYTHING – good or bad. I hold my achievements proudly, but my rejections even closer. I still have all my college rejection letters (four to be exact). I wonder if it’s some miracle, some reason, that I didn’t get into those colleges, Teach For America, didn’t get a job in another state, or move closer back to my home in MD. Not to mention the fact that I was fooling myself when I said I wanted to go to grad school. Well life is a funny thing because I happened to get a job offer the day before graduation.
One year later:
I am slowly starting to shape together my own life, but to also learning to LET GO! I don’t talk to people who I don’t want to talk to, especially ‘energy vampires’, and I don’t do things that I don’t want to do. I find enjoyment and excitement in the littlest things, like buying a new brand of conditioner, unfriending people on Facebook, pretending I’m on ‘The Office’ while at work, etc. Each day I walk, with my head high, never looking at the ground or diverting my gaze, looking every human being that I encounter directly in the eyes. Yes, I may still be a little awkward, but I am confident. I’m becoming less afraid of things and more carefree. My life has some semblance of structure. I exercise, do volunteer-work with little kids, mentor, and still hang out with my friends. However, there’s always that word – ‘PURPOSE’, in the back of my mind, whispering into my ear. I need a job that allows me to be more creative, to express myself. I’m not sure how cubicle-lifestyle became so acceptable.
8am to 5pm
“Life can only be understood looking backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard