The Post-Grad Journey: A Lesson in Life

Life lesson #43298: What you think you should do is sometimes completely different than what you want to do – If only I could jump back to last summer to tell myself!

For what seems like forever, I have told everyone from friends, random people at parties, teachers, and family members that upon graduating undergrad, I would head off to graduate school to a M.A. or Ph.D. program in English literature. In fact, during my first year of college while my classmates were mostly concerned with figuring out their major requirements, I obsessed over taking the right classes designed for graduate school track students, finding the right internships, and doing everything the right way towards getting to graduate school – ruling everything out that did not fit in the perfect English grad school box I put myself in.

As you can imagine, it’s a rather rude awakening when everything doesn’t fall into place like you planned for it to.  Looking back, the moment I realized that my plans were not something I really 100% wanted to do anymore was during a conference meeting with my thesis advisor. She asked me why I wanted to attend graduate school. I was silent. I had no answer. I sputtered off some generic – the “I’d like to advance my studies in literature” excuse. But it felt so fake, so fabricated, and hearing myself say it bothered me. I didn’t like the way it rolled off the tip of my tongue. I didn’t like the way it made me feel about where I wanted to go in my future.

There is a huge problem when you don’t really have an answer as to why you are doing something major like applying to graduate programs, and this started the downward spiral of my graduate school plans. Another red flag was my honors thesis project. Like many seniors, I was completing a sixty-page thesis project (I was working in the area of girls’ fiction in children’s literature). I picked the topic myself, but not even a month or two into the project, I hated it. I wanted nothing to do with what I was writing and saying and researching. There I was working on something very similar to what I would be doing in graduate school, completely unhappy. Not good, right?

Although that little voice in the back of my head (you know the one that tells you to go to class even though you don’t want to, the one that tells you to order just one more drink at the bar, and the one that tells you to run away from that creepy guy in the frat basement corner as fast as you can) was telling me over and over again that graduate school wasn’t for me. I didn’t listen. There were so many times that voice was shouting at me, but I just ignored it because it was out of bounds from my “future plans.”

Looking back, I just want to yell at myself and say “How could I not have listened?” I mean – Hello Charlsie, wake up! None of the schools I was looking at actually interested me. None of the subjects I wrote about as projected graduate study topics even remotely fascinated me in a level that I’d want to dedicate years of studying towards. Nothing I heard about graduate school from professors and friends in graduate school amused me (in fact, most people that went off to graduate school in English have told me how unhappy they are or have quit in the middle of their degrees). Even the GRE exam, which I had to take for grad school admissions, meant nothing to me – it was just a pain in my side. Again, how could I not have listened?

It took me almost a full academic school year to listen, and I didn’t start to grasp that until after all my applications were paid for and sent out (talk about an expensive disaster!). Although I can solidly say that my love for all things English is undying, I can also say that my heart, body, and brain are just not into it like someone should be if they want to go off to graduate school. I felt like I would be selling myself out.  Luckily for me though, coming to terms with life not going as planned was a blessing, because it saved me from something I didn’t want to really do.

They say hindsight is 20/20 but luckily, I’m not making the same mistakes as before. For the first time, it feels like I’m actually genuinely focused on something that I want to do – rather than what I thought I should be doing. I’m one of those very structured people that has to plan everything from A to Z, so to learn this lesson that I can’t control my own future when it’s not something that is meant to be – especially when it’s something I don’t want to invest myself in – has been definitely worth learning.

If I continued with my plan to continue on in English, I feel like I would have ended up hating it. Now, I have not only left myself room to grow and explore all things in the world of writing and literature on my own terms instead of academia, I can stand on my own towards bigger and better choices such as law school – something in which I feel like I will have tons of room to grow!

Even though getting into law school is going to be a bitch, and the LSAT process is going to be one of the toughest things to tackle in my life, it feels so good to actually say “I want to do this and that’s why I am.” And it’s for the right reasons. Instead of what felt like signing my life away to something I was wishy-washy about, I feel invigorated that I can work through this next part of my life to get to what I genuinely want.

Although this kind of all feels like some overwhelming John Mayer song lesson to me, it’s been one of the best lessons I could learn in my life, and I feel lucky to carry it with me through my post-grad journey. Who knew that plans not working out could be one of the best things to happen to me?

Certainly not me, but then again – I wouldn’t be writing this if I did.

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