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In the Driver's Seat: Navigating Uncertainty After Graduation

I remember the Fall of 2008 vividly. I was completing my senior capstone and on the verge of obtaining my Bachelor of Arts in history. I had the vaguest of plans built on the potential to attend law school and become an attorney.

Did I have a resume? No, at least not something that was well put together and showed my skills.

Did I know how I was going to pay for law school? Loans? No, I did not know how I was going to pay for law school.

Did I care about my future? I did, but I had come up hearing that if I went to college, I would be sure to get a “good job”, everything else that went along with that was a mystery to me.

On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brother’s filed for bankruptcy and the bottom really fell out of the economy.

After completing my capstone and getting my degree, I was faced with a decision. What do I do to survive? I had been working at a hotel and knew that this line of work was not for me. Besides the pay, the leadership of the business created a difficult environment. I did not know it at the time, but I would spend the next three years working in hospitality. Due to a stubbornness inherent to my nature and friends with plenty of books to borrow, I persevered.

Working eight-hour shifts from midnight until early the next morning, was a daily reminder of how much I wanted to change my situation. Yet, things seemed so much worse in the wider world that I felt paralyzed. Unemployment, suffering, and the cost of gas ($4+/gallon!) were high. Choosing to be angry at my institution for not preparing me better was the natural choice at the time. This anger was something I would carry with me for years. Why had they not forced me to get an internship? Why did they not make me write a great resume, or teach me how to write one? Why had they never invited me to the career center? Why did they not do all this for me?! The anger drove me away from the place and community of people that I had loved while I was a part of it and was only resolved once I took ownership for my own actions, or lack thereof.

All of this is meant to share one primary message. You are in the driver’s seat. You are the one who gets to make the choices for yourself. Yes, macro-economic trends may be throwing you challenges that you did not expect, or are difficult to overcome, but you have the agency to choose your path.

You can choose to take steps now that will place you into the path of success later. Anger, while sometimes empowering, can blind you to choices that can change your life forever. Allow yourself to feel these feelings, but do not dwell in them, and then take charge of your destiny.


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