Advice From Abroad: Travel, Travel, Travel!

As I’ve commented before, everyone’s life after college is going to look different as there are a plethora of lifestyles to live. While surveying different people on their post-grad life, I’ve been choosing people strategically to sharpen these differences and bring into focus why it’s so important to remember that everyone’s path is different after getting that diploma.

“I think that there is a general expectation, or maybe hope, that after you graduate college, you will have it all figured out.  For some, that may be true, but it certainly was not for me.  I knew where I wanted to be, but I had no idea how to get there.  I still feel that way.  There is a lot of undue pressure put on new college graduates.  As obvious as this may sound, you figure it out as you go and that is more than okay.” – Kate, Graduate Student in Edinburgh, Scotland.  

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Initially I was curious how she ended up in Scotland, as she is native to Philadelphia, so she gave me a brief background on what she did right after graduation from La Salle University. “I went on a service trip through La Salle to Kenya for three weeks, where I was inspired to fully pursue the course of study I am presently undertaking (international relations).  I continued to work at the Independence Visitor Center in Center City, Philadelphia where I worked for three years throughout college.  During that gap year, I applied to graduate schools throughout the UK.  I traveled with my mother to Belfast and Edinburgh to visit the two prospective schools I was torn between but now, here I am in Edinburgh!”

So basically, travel is in Kate’s blood and she wants to urge recent graduates to consider their traveling options now while they have the chance. “Please travel! It may be the first instance where you have a large amount of time to do so. There is no better way to connect with other people in this world and yourself.  I can promise you that you will never regret the money spent on making memories while traveling.”

Any transition, small or large, is going to be challenging so I asked her what her what her expectations were for post-grad life upon graduation and Kate commented that, “I knew it would be hard to transition from being a student for 16+ years to not being a student.  However, no one quite prepares you for that first August/September when you are not back in a classroom.  Personally, that was a tough adjustment because being a student was something I felt I was good at.  I had to figure out who I was without the “student” label.  A year out of school can feel like an eternity and adjusting back into being a student can feel just as strange, especially in a foreign academic system.  I still haven’t quite found the academic rhythm I used to have, and I am not sure I will.  However, I sure am having a lot more fun than I did throughout my undergraduate years and that sure is the best surprise!  I’ll take the memories made with awesome people over top marks any day and that has been the best realization I’ve come to in my post-grad years.”

Which I then followed up by asking what she found to be recurring frustrations surrounding her life right now which she answered, “This is probably a cliché answer, but I would have to say the uncertainty of what to do next.  I think at least once a day about how I am spending a lot of money on a fancy piece of paper that is a master’s degree to not be sure of whether or not I will be able to use the knowledge and skills I hope I am acquiring in the professional world.  That is a risk all students take who are pursuing higher education. You have to factor reality into your goals and sometimes that can be quite discouraging.” 

There is definitely something daunting about her last statement, but it definitely holds a lot of truth. However, hearing other people voice the same thoughts that I have in my head makes it somewhat less discouraging because it brings me to the realization that there is this whole community of twenty-somethings facing the same confusion and questions, and that makes post-grad life a little less extreme.

Although Kate stressed multiple times in her survey that she loves everything that is embodying her life right now, as humans, we still face obstacles. Kate added that, “The biggest obstacle I feel I faced and continue to face is myself and the own pressures I put on myself.  I have fallen into episodes of “Imposter Syndrome” where I did not give myself credit where credit was due.  My first postgraduate semester at the University of Edinburgh was a bit tough because of this.  It took me a while to feel that I deserved to be among my peers.  I wouldn’t say that I would do anything differently, but I wish I would not have psyched myself out so much and accepted that moving at your own pace or feeling like a rookie in new situations is perfectly fine.”

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It was interesting to see this answer come up because in the previous survey I conducted from a grad school student, their answer was pretty similar.

In addition to her advice on travel, Kate also encourages college graduates to keep in touch with former professors.

“After graduating, keep in touch with professors who have had a positive impact on your academic experience during your undergraduate education.  They will love to know what you are up to and love it even more if they knew how they have inspired you.  You will need them later as well if you intend to pursue postgraduate education and they will most likely be more than happy to help.”

Kate’s life in Edinburgh is a life that one should admire. Seeing all of her pictures from traveling to different countries throughout Europe makes me jealous but also so proud of her for having the courage to do something most cannot, which is moving out of your comfort zone and finding a home away from home on your own.

I asked Kate to leave me with some quotes she lives by and this one seems fitting.

“You’re looking at a middle-class guy. I am who I am.” – former Vice President, Joe Biden.

“I am proud of where I come from and the family I come from.  There is nothing I love more in this world than my family, friends who are family, and the city of Philadelphia.  I am a firm believer in the importance of remaining true to yourself and your roots.”

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

College Life to Mom Life

I remember being so jealous of Maureen’s life in Los Angeles, it was the definition of living vicariously through someone.

She was studying at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (where LC went for any Hills fans), living in an apartment building with a roof top pool, meeting celebrities like Mariah Carey, partying at high end clubs, and working in fashion day in and day out. She was living out my sixteen year old dreams that were based off of Lauren Conrad, and as her best friend, I couldn’t have been more happy.

 

During college, as well as after she moved home too, Maureen was presented with various experiences, tribulations and opportunities. Although our undergrad years were drastically different, post grad life hit us like a brick wall.

‘What now?’

That haunting question that keeps you up at night, the one that is impossible to silence, struck Maureen upon moving home to Philly.

While reflecting back on what her initial expectations were for life after college, she notes that she thought it consisted of “freedom, partying and doing whatever you want, which does happen during a short window of time, but reality hits when you’re back living with your parents, loans kick in and you’re basically forced to find a full-time job. You have to grow up really quick.”

Stress is something that is inevitable for all of us, and Maureen often finds herself stressing over is being too hard on herself even when she realizes she shouldn’t be. On a more professional level, she stresses about not being in complete control which is why she hopes to one day be her own boss.

And speaking of stress, she advises all soon-to-be grads, to NOT stress and cherish the last moments of college life and have fun. “Whatever you’re stressing about will eventually be over with sooner or later. Don’t worry about getting your dream job right away. Do what works for the time being and the right job will come at the right time.”

So now three years out of college, Maureen has not only found the right job, she found her dream job: becoming a mom, which she comments is both the toughest and most rewarding job in the world.

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When talking about parenthood, I asked Maureen if she felt that others view her only as a mom now and no other role, and she responded by saying, “Yes and no. I think more so yes for those who don’t know me very well. I think people innocently assume that moms are just moms because they might not know any better. They assume that your life only consists of your child, which is pretty accurate because your child will always be your whole life, but they have no idea what you do outside of your kids. Some are so quick to assume that moms do nothing but be moms. I think being a young mom makes it harder for people not to judge me. Age is just a number, your actions show the kind of mother you are. I defy this stereotype by just being myself. I still do the things I want to when I can and it works. My boyfriend and I are truly an amazing team. Without someone by your side who truly loves you, parenting would be a completely different ball game.”

I admire and respect Maureen for balancing everything she does. While living in New York she had the opportunity to work for Armani, now she works at a high-end bridal boutique in Philadelphia which she comments on and says, “it’s a different side of the industry that I never saw myself falling into but I enjoy being able to be a part of a girls big day and helping them feel their best, it’s a rewarding job.”

On top of working and being a mom, I don’t know how she balances it all but she does and hats off to her for it. I can barely balance my life and I have significantly less responsibilities! Addmittedly, Maureen finds herself frustrated sometimes that she isn’t able to work out as much she would like to and not always being able to follow through on personal goals.But I know that when the weather is nice, she loves walking as much a possible with her daughter, Ava!

As I said in the beginning of this post, I was so obsessed with Maureen’s life while she was living in L.A. and I can confidently say I’m obsessed with her life now too. She has found something some people never find: true love. Not just with her boyfriend but in her daughter, too.

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The future is never clear, and sometimes it presents obstacles, but it can also present opportunities.

Post grad life for Maureen is going pretty well, I’d say. She has a job she’s passionate about, a supporting family, and the most beautiful daughter who is so full of life and love, it’s hard not to be jealous.

I want to finish by including some words of advice from Maureen that seem to be a similar response for those doing these posts. Every response I’ve gotten holds the central theme I’ve created for this blog.

“Be yourself and never doubt it. If you are still figuring yourself out that is okay too. Embrace it, it is okay to not always know the answers to everything or how you feel about everything. Whatever you do, do not let others mold you. You will get lost. Stop caring about what other people think.  People are always going to talk no matter what, thinking about it solves nothing. Do you and don’t look back!! You’ll be happy when your older and can say I didn’t give a shit what people thought of me!  Lastly, as cliche as it sounds, follow your heart. So many people our age feel obligated to get that big job or buy a car or even a house. Do what feels right. You might find a job you love that has absolutely nothing to do with what you went to school for. Does it make you happy? If it does, then that’s all that matters. Life really is simple if you take a step back sometimes. Don’t get caught up in the drama of what you think you should do, do what you WANT to do!’
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An Almost Post Grad Life: Grad School

A huge part of why I originally started this blog was for the intended purpose of others to be able to share their thoughts and experiences associated with post-grad life, not just my own.

I’ve recently been collecting statements, anecdotes and opinions of other 20somethings floating around adulthood to showcase how even though we all live different lives, the similarities we face as millennials are startlingly similar.

I selected people based on different demographics including age, sex, employment, fields of study, line of work and geographical region. This post will be the first of many in a mini series and I’m excited to share with all of you my findings as well as my thoughts! Enjoy.


Jill is currently a Speech Pathology Graduate student at The University of Pittsburgh with only three short months until graduation. When reflecting on her time in grad school, as well as undergrad, she came to a bizarre realization that once she completes this degree, she’ll have spent a total of twenty years as a student. She says, “it’s exciting but also very daunting to think about finally entering the real world.”

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A question I posed to all of my participants surrounds the idea of identifying what continually stresses them out, both personally and professionally. For Jill, she thinks that “there is always still a part of me that feels I need to prove that I deserve to be in the same place as my classmates, and that I am smart and good at what we are all there to do.” She continues to land on a point that I think is an important for anyone, not only students, which is that of “it’s hard to keep reminding myself that as a student, I can and will make mistakes.” No one is perfect, though we often try to be, it’s impossible.

Another thing, that I can very much relate to, that stresses her out is the dating life. As you may have read in my previous post, being in single has its ups and downs. Jill comments, “Dating  can and should be fun and exciting, but anyone who’s been where I have knows that’s not always the case.”

A common theme in most adults lives, primarily those in early adulthood, is the mundane routines we face Monday through Friday. I asked Jill if there are any frustrations she feels are recurring and she plainly states that it’s the repetition of it all; “I go to clinic, go to class, go home, go to bed, and do it all again the next day.” She attributes going out on the weekends with friends as a break from it all and why it’s crucial to do so.

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Although undergrad was only a few short years ago, we often reflect and realize how our thoughts and opinions have changed drastically in that tight time frame. There are definitely things I regret doing and not doing in college, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, and unfortunately since we cannot change the past, maybe we can help those in the future through advice. Jill remarks that her regret is not studying abroad while having the opportunity to, and her reasoning behind it was “I didn’t want to miss a whole semester at college with all my friends” and admittedly adds, “and looking back that was a really young and dumb idea.”

In addition to dishing out advice, Jill also adds “not to stress about getting a job right away. You have your whole life to work and rushing it will just stress you out and you’ll probably end up at a job you don’t even like. If you decide to live at home and don’t get that dream job right away, do not let yourself or other people make you feel like you are any less because of it. We all know how annoying that question of ‘what are you doing now?‘ gets from the insignificant talk that is unfortunately unavoidable.” And I couldn’t agree more.

Finally, I asked Jill to provide quotes that inspire or motivate her and among them, as it fits well with the central theme of my blog, I chose this one to leave here. “Life is 10% what happens to you…and 90% is how you react to it.

Jill concludes by saying, “Do what makes you happy and feel good abut where you are in your life, and not what you feel like you have to do or should be doing compared to or based off of other people’s standards.”

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What You Want to Do Vs. What You Should Do: The Noise of Life

“Noise” is defined is defined by the dictionary as “a sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance”. Life noise, however, has a different connotation in regards to many aspects.

Throughout life, there can be different forms of noise day to day. This noise is a distraction for many people when focusing on what makes them happy. Too many are focused on what makes others happy instead. Anyway you swing it, sacrifices are made for people we love and care about, but that’s part of any relationship. However, making life decisions and being indecisive because you don’t want to hurt others feelings is in turn constantly hurting the individual. It’s difficult to distinguish between looking out for those you love and looking out for yourself. The hardest part is that there is no right answer; the answer is within each person’s way of living life.

People, places and things create a lot of noise in life. Personal appearance in social situations is one of those noises. What is there to do tonight? Who is going to hang out with me? I’ve had this outfit since high school and still wear it, does it matter? My makeup isn’t the newest addition of naked (or any type of naked for that matter), will they notice? There is such a stress on the way people look in social situations, it’s crazy. Everyone is judged on how they look, whether it’s a positive or negative judgement. Stressful, unnecessary noise. The way anyone presents themselves is individualized and is important to be left that way. The way someone dresses or looks does not need to change the way that person is perceived. Too many focus on external characteristics instead of truly getting to know people for who they are internally. Next time you meet somebody new, try talking to them with more decency. Even if you are already with friends, invite someone new in; find out who they are.

Another noise ringing constantly is about the way life is “supposed” to be like?

1. You should have a steady job by the age of 23.
2. You should be looking to date someone long term so you can have a family by age 30.
3. You should have a budget and be saving your money to buy a house, not spending so much of it.
4. But then there’s also: enjoy life while you’re young, you can save money later.

The word SHOULD is thrown around way too often. Life isn’t about right and wrong. The real question “should” be, what do YOU want your life to be like RIGHT NOW? Do we have to stress so much about the future? Who cares what’s going to happen in a year, or ten years. Why is it so frowned upon to just live for now and make good decisions based upon the way everyone wants them to be made? Because, in the end, life is about embracing feelings of the individual and who better to make decisions than the individual who is actually living that life? It’s up to them, not the rest of the world and the way things have been set into a precedent by our parents’ generation.

The loudest noise, in my opinion (because this is what I constantly feel), has become: will I upset “so and so” if I decide to do this? After all, it is what I want to do, isn’t it? But repeatedly I notice thoughts like, “but they don’t want to do that (or they disagree) so I should change my mind to make them happy”. It’s a way of unintentional perfectionism that I’m noticing is taking over these decisions. Perfectionism can be dangerous. I won’t tell them certain things because I feel they won’t agree/will judge me. And don’t get me wrong, I have learned that boundaries are very necessary to have. However, if you’re talking to someone, you shouldn’t feel like you must discount your feelings because you feel the other person will get upset or disagree with you. Avoiding upsetting others is close to impossible, so what’s the point of risking your own happiness to stress about others’ happiness when we cannot control that? I believe that everyone has a bit of perfectionist qualities; it’s important to not let them run your life.

Venting is something everyone needs, so it’s important to find a few people you can tell many things to without feeling judged. Sometimes it’s good to have those people to discuss different things with: one person for work situations, one for relationships, one for advice about friends, etc. Extra people means extra noise and that noise makes people second guess. For me, I find myself asking people, what would you do? Or what do you think? When in reality, does it matter? No. It’s more noise, it’s more unnecessary opinions, and it makes me feel like there is a right and wrong in every situation. Noise while making decisions really gets in the way and hinders the way people live their lives. Living a life this way is utterly exhausting and stressful, and for what? Live YOUR life the way YOU want to. Make your own decisions.

I’ll go a little bit in a different direction to finish. I truly believe the things I discussed and really am working on all of that for myself in my own life. However, there is another side as well. Most of us have people we are close to whether that be friends, family, significant others, or more than one. As much as it is important to live the way I have described above, it’s also just as important to make time and do things with those who mean so much. So sometimes, sacrifices should be made. And that’s okay, it’s part of life as well. Don’t want to go to a family reunion? Doesn’t matter, that’s something that is important. You’re not just attending to make others happy, but to spend time with those you love. And most importantly to enjoy it, because you truly don’t know how often you’ll get to do those things. That goes for friends and significant others as well. Sacrifices are always made in any type of relationship. Something may sound “better” or more fun than going to something “obligatory”. But that’s just the thing, it doesn’t always have to feel like an obligation, if these people are important to you, you will want to go. This is just as important to consider.

Life has so much noise in it, it is exhausting. But at the end of the day, the importance is to not get so caught up in all of it. Living your life and doing things that make you happy are so crucial. As well as making time for others. As the “entitled” generation, it’s important to have a balance between these things, which is extremely difficult but totally doable. Extra stress about decision making isn’t worth it. Simply, think, what do I WANT to do? Instead of what SHOULD I do? You may “hurt” people in the process or maybe they won’t agree with you, but that’s the noise we need eliminate from our minds. It takes a conscious effort to think in this way, and it’s challenging. But it could truly make a happier, more enjoyable life for years to come.

 

Finding Your Identity

One thing that I think about often, is people who struggle with transition out of college and finding out who they really are. Let’s be honest, the four, sometimes more, years you spend in college do not shape you as an individual. They basically equip you with time management and social skills, if you’re lucky. So it can be eye opening to join the real world and not have any idea the type of person you want to be. Do you want to make as much money as possible? Do you want to help as many people as possible? Do you want to develop certain relationships with some more than others? Who do you want to be and what legacy do you want to leave?

Let’s slow down a little.

Just know that you don’t have to have the answers to any of these questions and most of us won’t know for quite some time. I still struggle with having sociopathic tendencies on a weekly basis. A lot of my free time is still spent wondering why I was such a dick in certain situations and why I have little to no filter. BUT I work at it every single day and compared to college where I was a full blown sociopath who didn’t care about anyone but me, I’ve come a long way. And that’s what it’s all about post-grad. Developing yourself little by little consistently every day until you look back, and after a year you’re able to think “Wow look how far I’ve come when I thought I was making no progress at all.”

It’s also important to understand that a lot of people will always see you as the person you were in college and their image of you may never change. It’s something that you have to accept and dismiss. If you live everyday with the drive to be better off today than you were yesterday, then there is nothing that can stop you because the only person you’re competing with is yourself. Don’t compare your jobs, don’t look down at others jobs and don’t put yourself down about your own job. Most people hate their first job right out of school and the “real world” is not like it’s made out to be where it all happens at once right after graduation. Some people will hit their stride out of the gates and others won’t hit it for a while. So live on the grind, compete against yourself and give positive enforcement to your friends. Some people will shit on your dream, or your job, or your decision to take a year off or whatever it is, but that’s because your vision isn’t theirs. You’re seeing everything through a different lens than everyone around you.

Just because you’re trying to find yourself and get control of the reigns doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Go out on the weekends- you can still even drink on Sundays, you’ll be surprised at how many people do. Go on trips- you have a steady income now and are able to do what you love. I love to write, so this is how I’m spending my Thirsty Thursday writing and watching the Yankees. Just have fun with it, whatever it is you do.

“Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in 1 year and underestimate what they can accomplish in 3.”