Into uncharted territory

Every year since 2010, I’ve written a reflective piece on a private blog. I enjoy being able to look back and read my own story each year, seeing my growth and path develop with time. Here’s an excerpt from my reflection on 2016: 

2016 was a come-up year for me on several levels. It started slowly, but I do think I lived up to my commitment to go beyond survival and into flourishing. 
Let’s start at the beginning. From January to March, I was knee-deep in my grad school coursework, biting off a course load that was a bit more than I could chew, especially considering I still didn’t have a supervisor. Coming out of my most challenging quarter with great grades and keeping my building afloat was both exhausting and a huge success. Other developments fell into place during this term. In February, I found out I had landed three summer opportunities in three different cities: Chicago, New York City, and Providence. I committed my summer to working in Rhode Island three months ahead of time and felt secure in making it to my second year of grad school. This mattered because my previous position didn’t include employment over the summer, throwing me to the wind to continue generating revenue and find a place to live temporarily. By the end of March, my new supervisor was finally hired and I could breathe a little more. Finally, some relief.

I traveled to Indiana in March to take on my short-term internship with a national hiring conference (TPE), getting a taste of what was to come at the end of my grad school journey. As I watched colleagues and other outgoing graduate students interview for job after job, I yearned for it to be my turn to work full-time and kickstart my career. I largely kept these thoughts to myself because I didn’t want to seem pretentious. But I couldn’t help thinking, “Why can’t that be me?” I had a pretty strong idea of what I wanted. In the end, I’d set my heart on two things: finding a job, and staying in Seattle. With a new wind of confidence and frustration, I headed into the spring quarter. 

April through June was a bit of a blur. I went through the motions. Work/internship, class, reading, repeat. Then, an opportunity arose—a full-time opportunity had been created in my own department. I thought it was a sign. I applied, reached the phone interview stage, and didn’t get any further. Instead of letting this knock the wind out of my sails, I couldn’t have been more energized to put myself out there. Quietly, I kept my eyes open for other opportunities. By the end of the spring quarter, I’d heard about an opening that was essentially a dream job, and I sent in an application with low expectations. 

In the second week of June, things started moving quickly. I finished the quarter, closed the building, and was invited to an in-person interview, all within the span of seven days. On Friday, June 10th, I interviewed with everything I had. I felt confident about my interview, but wasn’t ready for what came next. I received a phone call two hours later inviting me to a second round. The only problem: I was leaving the next day for Providence. At this point, I thought I’d taken myself out of the running. They promised to call back with more information soon. And so, I took off to my summer in New England. 

Within the first two weeks of exploring Providence, I’d been offered a remote interview via Skype. I excitedly asked for an hour off in the middle of the workday for what could be a huge opportunity. Later that same day, I accepted a full-time job offer upon returning to Seattle in August. 

I had finally done it; I was employed as a full-time professional. I was ecstatic. This wasn’t supposed to happen so soon; graduate students aren’t supposed to get their jobs until well into the end of their program. But against the expectations of others, I’d made big moves for myself. 

From June to August, I made the most of my summer. The heavy weight of wondering whether or not I would find a job for post-grad school had vanished, giving me a sense of freedom I can’t say I’ve ever felt as an adult. I spent time in Boston with friends I studied abroad with and bused over to New York City for a day. Summer was nice, but I didn’t really know anybody in Providence. Working with pre-college students was difficult and clearly not my calling, so I was ready to head back to the Emerald City and a new opportunity by summer’s end. 

From August to December, I went through positive transitions. I took a quarter off from classes, had to move off-campus to my first Seattle apartment, navigated being the youngest professional in my entire division, engaged in research about men of color working in higher education, and got a car after years of being without wheels. I’m still working through finally having enough resources to be okay on my own after years of just making it work. I still have a strange relationship with spending money, but it’s definitely improved this year. 

I started the year wishing for stability, and now I’ve gotten to a place where I sense much more control over my life. I’ve struggled for so long to get to a point where I feel secure on my own; so many jobs, internships, interviews, living spaces. It’s about time that I spend less time afraid of whether or not my basic needs will be met and spend more time living my best life. 
Looking ahead to the new year, the stage is set for more milestones and successes. I’ll be presenting research at a national conference (NASPA), digging deeper into my career, hopefully taking some time off to visit long-time friends in Chicago and Boston, and graduating with my masters degree in the next six months. The months following graduation are less mapped out; that’s why, in part, I’m looking forward to 2017. It’s mysterious. There’s opportunity. There’s life after being a graduate student. And for once, I’m not struggling. 

Into uncharted territory we go. 

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