Finding Yourself After College

"What better way to spend your life than in pursuit of the things you love."

I'll bet many of you once scoffed at your parents when they warned you to appreciate your childhood. I'll bet they told you to that being an adult wasn't all it was cracked up to be. That you'd be there soon enough, and to not try to expedite the process. Mine did at least. Our parents wanted us to revel in the absence of responsibility, and yet we dismissed this as a fallacy. I mean, how in the world could eating pizza and dino nuggets every day without gaining a pound be better than driving your first car, or staying out past 9pm? I'm learning day after day just how right my parents were and what it's like to be strapped by the responsibilities I once balked at. It's tough.

To be clear, I'm not saying being a child is necessarily better than being an adult. Even when that overwhelming wave of nostalgia hits, I can still appreciate the perks of being an adult. I actually quite enjoy the freedoms it provides. Making my favorite meals whenever I want them. Making my own decisions. Being my own person with my own money and my own separateness from my parents. It's nice. I'm merely writing this post to discuss my personal journey navigating treacherous-post-grad waters, and how I've coped with the uncertainty of where my life is heading. Because let's be real - that shit is real and it's scary as hell. 

For starters, I always felt I had life figured out. Don't we all as we're growing up? I had a set plan from the time I was a freshman in high school onward never once did I stray from that plan... that is, of course, until now.

I knew I would study anthropology / archaeology in college and that once I had graduated I would serve in the Peace Corps in Africa. Then following that I would get some job travel writing, or perhaps take assignments with National Geographic as a photographer or an archaeologist on some dig somewhere Ethiopia. Maybe I'd go to grad school to study bioarchaeology. I knew I would go that route. And I was completely on track for this plan.

I excelled in my studies. I studied abroad in Morocco, and Greece. I was even set to leave for Malawi three weeks after graduating Boise State to serve as a secondary school English teacher in the Peace Corps. Something I had dreamed of for years and years. Fast forward a bit and...

Here I am. In San Francisco, California. I did not end up taking my Peace Corps assignment. I'm not in graduate school. And I'm definitely not on assignment with Nat Geo... yet ;)

I'm living in the absolute last place I'd have thought I would have. Working at an (amazing) design firm. Engaged to the love of my life. I didn't see any of this coming. None of this was in my carefully thought out plan. 

I guess I'd never really thought about any other plan for myself. It has been a scary process to transition from a place of absolutely surety to flying by the seat of my pants. And I'll admit, my Type A personality really hates it at times. I get anxiety. I question where I am, and where I am going, and even who the hell I am. It's so much easier to sit down, put pen to paper, and write up your next five years and say OK. This is what I'm doing. That's what my 15 year old self would do. But I've come to realize, after having lived more spontaneously and manifesting my passions into actionable, tangible realities... things like writing for amazing organizations, (four) trips to Africa, etc... that this way of life if how we're supposed to live. To seize the incredible opportunities we manifest and to chase what feels right to you in the moment. What better way to spend your life than in pursuit of the things you love. We deserve to feel fulfilled and creatively satisfied. We deserve to be happy.


I am hardly an expert here, but I do feel I have some advice for those who are unsure of the path they're on. this is specifically tailored to those still in university, but I've also found these points to be great reminders for all of us. as we navigate the world around us, just trying to find a place in it that feels good and right, how bad could a few simple reminders be. I hope you're all able to glean at least one small thing from what I have to share below. and thank you for reading. :)


1) EXPLORE ALL OF YOUR PASSIONS. I know sometimes you think you are completely set on one thing, but odds are you have many interests. Why not take some time to explore those things you haven't given much thought to lately. I had a revelation [just yesterday] about how much I've always loved crafts and building things. What the HELL? My dad's garage is a craft-woman's dream! Why didn't I explore that passion when I had the chance? seize your passions each and every day. it will put you in the way of UNBELIEVABLE opportunities.

2) APPLY TO INTERNSHIPS. Just do it. Seriously. especially if you aren't feeling creatively satisfied in your current position, or you're not sure if what you're interested in could actually be a career. If you are still in school, i implore you to do an internship. any internship. just get some solid experience. something to put on the resume. you will regret it if you don't. and yes, i am speaking from personal experience here.

3) BE HUNGRY AND CONTINUE LEARNING even after school. When you dive into something, dive into it with all you have. It may not be something you pursue in the long-term, but your efforts will not go unnoticed and there is something to learn in everything we do. Every opportunity has the potential to teach you SO much. You won't know this if you don't give it a chance.

4) TAKE WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT YOUR LIFE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. KNOW YOURSELF AND DO what feels right to YOU. ALWAYS. (unless you'rE A SKETCH BALL CONSIDERING DOING SOMETHING STUPID, OF COURSE, IN WHICH CASE YOU SHOULD GET SOME HELP.) People have a tendency to project their own lives onto you. Whether it is lessons they've learned, advice they'd like to share, or an attempt to steer you in a different direction. All of these things are probably done with good intention, but realize you are chasing after YOUR dreams and goals. No one else's. Continually strive for the life you want to live because if you're happy and kicking ass, that's all that matters. 

5) ALWAYS WANTED TO TRY SOMETHING? DO IT. DO IT NOW! The longer you take trying to lay out pros and cons of things, the longer you spend doing nothing. If you want to do something just DO IT. All I wanted to do after I graduated was go travel FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME. Had I just committed to that one thing as opposed to going back and forth between actively pursuing a career or traveling, then I could have been all over by now. imagine how much richer OUR liVES Would be WE took more leaps of faith. That's something I am working on now.

6) IT'S OKAY TO BE UNCERTAIN - TO NOT BE SURE WHERE YOU ARE GOING. I KNOW THIS SOUNDS CLICHÉ, BUT TRUST THE JOURNEY. Anyone reading this probably thinks tHAT is hilarious coming from me. someone who spent almost the entirety of this post talking about how scared she is about the uncertainty of where she is going. But for once, I am going to listen to what other people have been telling me... people I respect, and people who are doing incredible things with their lives. AND THESE PEOPLE ARE TELLING ME THAT "It'S all going to work out." BECAUSE IT HAS TO. TRY not TO stress so much. Finding YOURSELF is just a matter of exploring who you are from day to day. do ALL YOU can each day TO pursue the life YOU'VE always dreamed of living. THEN trust that YOU'll get there. What else can we really do, after all?

7) YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. You can. Just believe iT. Put in the work. And do it. It really is that simple.

Authors Note: I have modified this post as of 3/31/18 to more accurately reflect my feelings and where I am now. I hope you enjoy the revised version.

WellnessShaylyn Berntson