If you were to look at my resume, and look at my trajectory from high school through university to now, I did it “right”. I did what everyone tells you to do about school to get a job.
I volunteered. A lot. I did a degree that was equal parts job applicable and artsy. I had summer jobs that were fun, terrible, and sector relevant. I got an internship at an NGO when I graduated, and three months in got offered a full time job.
The thing about university is that its a huge fucking black hole. You have no idea where you are, or who you are, or whats going on. Some days it might be all blue skies and answers (hooray for A’s on papers!), and then next you’re wallowing in a bottle of wine wondering if development should even be allowed. But the great secret to university is that this, the black hole, is expected.
I remember the first time I was told that we, as political science students, must “speak truth to power” and how that blew my mind. I remember a lecture given by a woman who was part of a polyamorous group and how it completely opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed. I remember hearing Jane Doe speak and asking why men weren’t told not to rape, instead of telling women not to walk alone at night, and how that both enraged and empowered me. These were moments of pure learning – I was hearing things for the first time that changed how I viewed and interacted with my world and despite that world being confusing and frustrating, I kept being told that it was expected.
I left university thinking that I knew a lot, and because I was following the pre-determined success plot line so carefully, I felt confident in my ability to join the workforce as a “real person”. Finding the internship I did was mainly luck. I interviewed well, but had friends working at the organization who could vouch for me being competent. Getting offered a full time job was the result of working 60+ hours a week for 3 months, and a need to fill a couple of roles fairly quickly.
When I started as full time staff in September I was so excited to have found something that aligned with my values, something that challenged me, and all in an environment that was supportive and community oriented. All of this continues to be true, and wonderful, and what makes coming to work every day so beautiful.
However, it turns out working for an NGO is a fucking black hole too, but no one talks about it. That narrative that leads to success? It stops at “got a job!”, and then starts up again with “get a boyfriend, get engaged, have babies!” etc, (which is a conversation for another time). I didn’t do all of the learning I needed in university, and was blindsided by the every day challenges of being a “real person” with a job.
I have no idea how to resolve conflict with a coworker. I don’t know how to balance paying a huge student loan, with rent, with a work lifestyle that dictates I eat out 5 nights a week. I don’t know what I’m even suppose to know to do my job well. A lot of this has to do with my own naiveté, and believe me I ask myself everyday how I could have been so silly.
OF COURSE IT DOESN’T GET EASIER. It just continues to be hard, but in a different way.
So to cope, I’ve started redefining my own success. Last night I had a PB&J with barbeque chips for dinner and watched the first episode of Glee. I felt like I was 8 and it was awesome. I’ve started buying books to teach myself the things I think I need to know – the most recent one of which is on “emotional intelligence” (who knew that was a thing?!). I make playlists by month to chronicle my emotions through song.
And now, I write blog posts about having no fucking clue what I’m doing with my life, and I’m being ok with it.