I had been climbing the mountain for four years.
One rainy day in May I finally reached the summit, ecstatic to have made it after all these years. I flirted with the clouds and took some moments to catch my breath. I looked out at the great wide world and felt an intense flood of satisfaction and pride for my accomplishment. Like I said, it took me four years to reach my goal, to reach the top of the peak that I had been laboriously climbing.
College is no joke. It can be stressful, demanding, and a huge change of pace from high school. But it’s also the most rewarding challenge I’ve ever faced up against. Attending a university is all to similar to climbing a mountain. There are hills and valleys that you must work through. There are great views, a bit of stress…and sometimes you get off track and wind up where you’re not meant to be. Thankfully, there are enough people on the same trail trying to reach the same goal you are. The journey is supported by others and it’s full of house parties, football games, and cramming together in the library. It was basic nature to group up with like minded people…to create a community with some kooky kids that were on the same college trail that I was on. We looked after each other, encouraged each other, played outdoors together…we skied together as much as possible. All the while we were trying to stay focused on the summit of the mountain. The goal = graduating…
The last pitch of the mountain was a hard one for me. My final semester I was letting go of things, letting new things enter to fill the spaces. I looked down on how far I had already came…I was almost there…the view below me was of the success and joy that I found in my college experiences. I had the illusion that once I finally got to the top, once I had finished this chapter of my book– I’d simply spread my wings, take a leap, and fly off the peak into a new world of success and happiness.
In the shoes I’m standing in right now, it’s hard for me to believe how sad I became in the months following my graduation. I felt alienated from my community of friends in Grand Junction. I felt disconnected from myself. I had just spent four years of my life establishing relationships and developing a nonchalant routine that I was happy with. I would work my butt off in school during the week days only to be relieved during the weekends (thanks to my wicked awesome job being a trip leader at the Outdoor Program). I settled into the satisfaction of getting good grades while still having all too much fun camping, rafting, climbing, skiing, and enjoying the people I was surrounded by all the time.
But then I left. I packed up my life, ripped out my roots, and drove back home. My graduation gift to myself was a trip to Puerto Rico, which was incredible…but after that my own personal storm began to hammer down on me.
I went after a few career jobs in Colorado Springs but nothing seamed to fit what I wanted. I wanted to travel more, but traveling requires money–which I had just spent all of on my trip to PR. A month and a half into my “new life after graduating” and I was more stuck, frustrated, and disappointed than I had been in years. I missed my life in Junction. I missed the life I could have had in Washington. Frankly, I was pissed off at a lot of things. Every choice I had ever made led me to the boat I was sailing in, and I was angry with myself–often feeling regretful–longing to be back where I was happy and comfortable. This kind of disposition was poison to me, as I am normally a forward thinking, positive young lady. My head was on a fast-track back into the past and day after day I found myself longing for what I used to have.
Of course, 6 months later and I feel much much better. But that’s because so much realisation comes from sadness. Peace comes from the darkest corners of chaos. The phoenix always rises from it’s own ashes.
What I’ve been figuring out is this…
In the months leading up to my college graduation, from about January until the day I walked across the stage, I felt intense pressure. Oddly enough, I misinterpreted these feelings of pressure. I thought that perhaps the weight on my shoulders during my last semester was just excitement for the unknown..excitement for the new life that I’d be diving into after school was over. But hindsight is always 20/20 and I can see now that (though I WAS excited) I was also weighed down by the pressures of “what I was supposed to do after I graduated…”
There was pressure to 1.) Travel because life is short and I’m young. Because there’s nothing better in the world to do than travel. Because I had traveled before and wanted to prove to myself and others that I could keep traveling. Because it’s “cool” to travel. Because traveling is a learning experience that you can’t get anywhere else. Because I am passionate about spanish and want to pursue it. Because it’s more fun than getting a job. Because it’s what my wanderlust group of friends expected/wanted me to do or because other people around me were planning on traveling.
Then there was an equal but opposite pressure to 2.) Get a “big girl job” because I just spent all this time and money on my education. Because a job would allow me to live in a nice spot and pay the bills. Because I like the field that I studied and if I’m lucky I can nail my dream job. Because maybe if I save enough money then I can buy a car and start investing and doing all the grown up stuff I had always admired as I grew up watching my parents do the same.
And finally there was the sweetest and most difficult pressure 3.) To follow the heart, to chase the boy… Because it’s true when they say all we need is love. Because we had been together long-distance for years. Because it hurt to not have him….
Fast forward back to today..to this moment… to my fingers openly clicking away at my keyboard. I can hear the breeze sing through the trees and my brother’s cat is sleeping lovingly by my side. After graduation, I didn’t chose option #1…nor did I chose option #2…and by May 2015, option #3 was long long gone. Instead, I work my butt off holding down two restaurant jobs. I spend my days off enjoying my family–kickin’ it hard with my brother & developing relationships with my restaurant friends…..and suddenly everything has become so clear to me…
…there is NO pressure to do anything and IN FACT– all the pressure I was experiencing was entirely developed in my own head. No one cares what I do. No one cares if I travel, if I get a good job, if I fall in love. Everyone is too preoccupied with their own life to comment on mine. Why did it take me so long to realize that? Why was I so caught up in what my life after graduation should be like? That’s the biggest mistake I made this year..being caught up in what the ideal life after school would be like. It’s almost a new year entirely, which means I’ve spent months forcing myself to figure things out, and with 2016 coming right around the corner I have finally come to a new perspective…there is no pressure…I am free…and at the end of the day only my heart can really tell me where to go. Not my brain, not my friends, not my family…just my heart. I am no longer distracted by “making the right choice” and instead I can simply focus on what my inner self wants me to do…
6 months after graduating and for the first time I can feel an entirely new adventure is about to begin.