A year ago today, I was a bundle of nerves and did a fantastic job pretending I knew what I was doing. I…had no idea. Which horrified me. I will not hold back in this post, as many folks on social media tend to do—this year was rife with successes, but it was also full of low-points.
I’m a planner, incredibly type-A, and have a difficult time throwing caution to the wind when things are uncertain. 2015 forced my hand, though. It started out pretty rough—in January, I moved back to San Francisco to an illegal apartment. The roof caved in on my room just before I arrived, there was a level-3 mold problem in the bathroom, and the apartment was dark because it was behind a garage and there was one window in the kitchen. Rent was cheap and I had my own (tiny) room, but once one of the housemates decided to jump ship and the landlord refused to fix the mold problem, I knew I needed to get out.
All the while, I was nervously awaiting results from graduate school applications, my senior seminars became intense, and my 35-40 minute commute started wearing on me. As I struggled to find an apartment, I received my first graduate school answer as I was on a bus enduring the early commute: Denied. Numb and exhausted, I questioned my qualifications and professional ability.
Simultaneously, though, I knew that my focus needed to be on finding shelter and surviving my final semester of undergrad. I found a safe apartment with nice people, viewed the place, and immediately told them I wanted the spot and could put down the deposit as soon as needed. I waited, and received another denial within a week of the last one. Saying I was shattered would be an understatement. Nothing was going well and I was fighting so hard. It took all I had not to cry or fall asleep in class most days.
But I kept searching, kept pushing. Finally, an email came back about an apartment a few blocks from school where some alumni from my university lived post-graduation. All wits gathered, I put on my best face and went to meet the tenants. Within a few days, one of the tenants contacted me with amazing news. I was going to be okay. This same month, I heard back from another two graduate schools: both acceptances, and both invitations to attend their on-campus preview days. I cried over both acceptances and booked my flights to Chicago and Seattle. I packed up and moved, attended both sets of preview days, and interviewed for 7 different graduate assistantships within the span of three days. I came away unsure, but satisfied. On the right track and full of reassurance, I came back to SF and waited it out.
February brought more disappointment. Chicago came back with no GAship offer. What was especially crushing about this outcome was that for me, (1) Chicago was the only institution I could realistically afford, and (2) I had gotten a better impression from Chicago than I had from Seattle. I seriously thought that this meant student affairs was not happening for me and I needed to figure something else out. I was broken. Sure, Seattle hadn’t responded, but I was not financially prepared for 4 out of the 5 positions I interviewed for, and the 1 position I could make work felt like a shot in the dark—they were interviewing around 15+ people for 2 open slots, the competition was fierce, and I came away from my interview questioning my every move.
At 10:07AM on Friday, March 20th, I was sitting on the floor of my living room and received a phone call from Seattle. I got the job I needed and wanted the most. Within a few days, I accepted the position and started making plans to move to Washington in August.
In May, I celebrated the end of a successful (and stressful) undergraduate career and walked at graduation, holding back my tears as I saw my mother in the audience. I made the absolute most of my last summer in San Francisco, accomplishing a list of things to do before I left, said my goodbyes to great friends / generally great humans I’ve met along this journey, and then made the big move to Seattle. I jumped headfirst without a life-vest. It was go-time. My first quarter hit me like a ton of bricks, mostly in terms of my GAship. Two supervisors left their positions between November and December, other staffing changes occurred, and the pressure became a lot to handle. I went away on Thanksgiving break and came back refreshed, my perspective challenged by the Brooklyn projects my family comes from. Plus, I’ve met some great people in my cohort who honestly keep me going. I began a new relationship before the quarter’s end. I came out of the quarter managing things well with my co-worker despite losing our supervisor, with a 4.0 GPA, and a fully-funded, week-long internship offer in Indianapolis come March 2016.
2015 was a year of uncertainty and transition. I struggled a lot and came out on top this year. Things picked up as quickly as they fell apart. I want this next year to be marked by stability and self-improvement. I know I’ll still be a graduate student by the year’s end, and I know I’ll still be based in Seattle. Because I’ll get to spend less time worrying about my future, I’ll have time to work on me—continuing to repair my relationship with money, carrying on with working on my body image, and building my professional presence when confronting folks I fundamentally disagree with when it comes to issues of race, diversity, social justice, identity, and inclusion. I get to focus on building myself up this year.
In 2015, I fought to survive. In 2016, it’s time to do more than survive.
It’s time to flourish.