I interrupt your not-so-regularly scheduled blogging to bring you a different type of post. As a recent college graduate who has moved to a new city, I have learned more than I ever imagined was possible in the span of under two months. Now I feel it’s time to share some thoughts on my new adventures with our tens of readers. 🙂
On April 30th, 2016, I graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a degree in social work. It was the end of a beautiful chapter for me, and the very next day, I was due to begin another. The Monday following my graduation, I would be in St. Louis to shadow a worker from an agency at which I had already interviewed. It seemed like the job was basically mine, and this shadowing was to be an experience for my own benefit to see if I liked the job. As I had several applications in the process for the St. Louis area, I figured the odds of getting a job over there would be pretty high. Even if it wasn’t using my degree, I wanted so badly to live and work in St. Louis.
I moved in to my brother and sister-in-law’s basement about as quickly as I could get out of my cap and gown. Being the impatient go-getter I am, I wanted my new life to start immediately. Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about rent yet (and I still probably won’t for a few months while I save up). Without my brother and sister-in-law, I would have had to wait quite a bit longer to start this new journey. I would have stayed at home in Fairfield while I worked to save up enough money to afford rent. Not a bad thing at all; about 5200 people live in Fairfield working towards their own goals. But I knew if I stayed much longer in my small town, I’d never leave. I’d get comfortable. While many people in Fairfield are comfortable and happy, I know that is not the life meant for me. As someone diagnosed with chronic wanderlust, the only cure is to keep moving. I love you Fairfield, but you are not where I belong anymore.
The unique thing about small towns is that there are certain expectations for you. When I was with my long-term boyfriend, I got asked on a regular basis, “When are you guys getting married?!” I didn’t mind politely answering that it wasn’t in my immediate plans, but after being asked by multiple people for so long, I started feeling the pressure. When my two best friends from Fairfield got engaged to their long-term boyfriends, I almost felt like I was doing something wrong by not even thinking about marriage yet at the age of twenty. This is not to say that my friends or anyone who marries young is doing something wrong. If that’s what you want, I support you one hundred percent! But since it wasn’t what I wanted, I felt out of place.
When my boyfriend and I decided to break up, most people were supportive and understanding, including my ex himself. We’ve continued to talk on a regular basis and harbor no hard feelings toward each other. Was it still a hard choice to make? Absolutely. We basically had an entire town expecting us to get married and have blond-haired, blue-eyed babies. But I wanted to leave that town and he wanted to stay. And neither of us was wrong in our choice.
After several visits to St. Louis throughout my life, I knew I had to live there. Forgetting my fear of driving in the city and ignoring people who told me how dangerous St. Louis was, I made the leap. I applied to Lindenwood University’s master’s in professional counseling program. What was I thinking? My bachelor’s degree was in social work. Didn’t I know I’d be more marketable with a master’s degree in the same field?
Never underestimate the power of genuine kindness. The admissions counselor at Lindenwood was so helpful and the attention so personalized that I felt like they truly wanted me there. I was accepted to Washington University’s graduate social work program, the number one of its kind in the country. Yet because of the kindness of the counselor named Kara Schilli, whom I haven’t even met in person, I felt an inexplicable pull to attend this school. The drastically cheaper tuition was a big deciding factor too, but had Wash U’s price been lower, I’m still not convinced I would have gone there.
I also knew I wanted to be at BJC Behavioral Health after my initial interview. The kindness I was shown there was above and beyond the impersonal phone interview I had with another location. When I didn’t hear from BJC for a couple of weeks after my shadowing experience, I began to doubt my decisions. Had I jumped the gun in moving right after graduation? I should have stayed a little while longer to work my daycare job in Fairfield, right? I was living in a new place where I knew almost nobody, not making any money, and feeling more anxious by the day. I had taken a huge chance and I ended up feeling irresponsible.
There were a lot of tears in my month of unemployment, but even now, saying it was only a month makes it feel silly that I was so worried. I enjoyed exploring and familiarizing myself with my new home in that time, but I would love to go back and tell myself to calm down, everything turns out fine.
So here I am now with two weeks at BJC under my belt. I got hired and have been warmly welcomed by a team of fascinating, intelligent people. Most of them have master’s degrees in professional counseling, an observation I’ve made that has increased my confidence in my own educational choice. Not only that, but I can even drive a few places without using my Google maps app, a huge accomplishment for someone as directionally challenged as me. I’ve surprised myself in a lot of ways. For example, my fear of driving in the city is a thing of the past. I got my Missouri driver’s license fairly easily. I’ve done so many things for myself that I always thought I’d need help with. I’ve noticed that being nervous about starting new things or meeting new people is something I rarely feel anymore. All the things I’ve been so worried about have ended up working out for the best. Why be afraid now?
I’m not worried about the fact that I don’t have my own place yet. I’m grateful I have the support that I do from my family. I see people every day now who don’t have that luxury. So I do my dishes in my bathroom sink. I don’t have windows in my basement bedroom. I own one cup of my own to drink out of (and even that I took from my mom’s house). But this is my life. I am living it how I choose. I don’t ask for much because I just don’t need it. Trust me when I say this is exactly what I want because I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I may not be able to afford any major travel experiences for awhile, but that’s okay. I’m only twenty-one! I have so much life ahead of me to explore the world and no one but myself to make these accommodations for.
I am filled with hope. Hope that I will soon make lifelong friends over here, hope that I will meet the love of my life, and most of all, hope that everyone can learn how to create their own happiness too.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. It’s just beginning. 🙂