After seventeen years of endlessly sitting in classrooms, this jump from college senior to young professional is less glamorous than it sounds.
People told me about the free time I would have, the languid summer afternoons spent job searching, the chaos of moving back with my family… but no one mentioned the hours spent staring at walls with tears in my eyes, the sense of having no life purpose, the futility of defining myself by my past accomplishments.
It’s not so much my joblessness that’s dragging me down – my chances of finding myself homeless or withering of starvation are slim to none, and I’m grateful to be part of that privileged demographic.
My greatest challenge has lied in the sweeping away of everything with which my identity was so intertwined. I feel like the washed-up high school football players who, at age 40, still insist upon re-living their glory days and defining their worth by their teenage athletic prowess. I don’t ever want to be the person that tells young people “Enjoy college, because the rest of life is downhill from there…”
We are glowing and radiant and pulsating souls that are perfect, whole, and complete. This society is so “doing”-oriented: from a young age, children are pressured to be the next Hillary Rodham Clintons, the next Babe Ruths, the next Britney Spears, implying that if they don’t manage to become “successful” their inner worth is somehow less than the person next to them.
In my time at college, I worked with my mentor from freshman year onwards to envision, pull together, and eventually launch a brand new farmers’ market in our neighborhood. The work I put into this endeavor was astounding, and when it became a physical reality in June 2011, I felt my ego tangibly creeping in.
Instead of the humility I had expressed in the prior years of planning, I took to heart the personal compliments of people who enjoyed the market. “You are amazing!” seemingly an innocuous and complimentary statement, was now inextricably linked with my ability to “do” something so major.
I changed my e-mail signature to include my title as Farmers’ Market Manager depending on what prestigious person I was contacting. I lived and breathed and had my being in my beloved farmers market and in my job working for the recycling program.
Instead of saying “Spirit manifested this through me” as I had before, now it became “I started this market.” Maybe part of this was due to my impending job search, the knowingness that I would soon have to “brand myself” – as if us job seekers were Barbie dolls! As if we weren’t amazing enough already!
On my last day of work, the realization set in that I lost more than just two part time jobs. Without my work, without this compass with which to define myself when meeting new people, my years of community development and environmental work now seem like a faraway fuzzy dream.
So after four years of being “the farmers’ market girl,” what do I have left? And more importantly, what happened to that radiant being inside of me that is fabulous no matter what? Where did I push her off to?
Ironically, I used to fantasize about the liberation that would occur when I could finally leave college. My passions gushed and my dreams shimmered: I wanted to become a writer, to sign up for as many alternative medicine and spirituality certifications as I could, to create some innovative nonprofit that would knock the breath out of everyone.
And here I am, age 22, supposedly ready to launch into the world, and I can’t even shape the words of whatever it is that I am supposed to do in this lifetime. I feel frozen.
On the bright side, I never would have known how much I neglected my vibrant inner spirit, the part that is separate from all of my accomplishments, if I hadn’t gone through this transition. For now I will rejoice in that new revelation and work moment to moment to take deep breaths and remember that glowing light at my core that can never be extinguished.
In her book Illuminated Prayers, Marianne Williamson includes this prayer that resonates with me deeply at this point in my life. I recite it and let it vibrate through my bones whenever I can:
May every aspect of my being
be converted to Truth.
May every cell fall into place
and serve a higher plan.
I no longer wish to be
who I was.
I wish to be more.
If anyone else is going through this transition or has successfully navigated it, please feel free to share in the comments!
Wishing you boundless inspiration forever,