Five years ago today I was a junior in college - one semester away from graduating early. I had JUST broken up with my long time boyfriend who I had intended to marry. I had no idea what I was going to do after graduation and was increasingly running out of time to figure it out.
It's pretty amazing how much a person can grow and learn in five years. I do think that everyone needs to go through those high school and college years where you think you know everything but actually know nothing. It's an important process of life to be in that place and claw your way through it. However, there are some things I wish I could tell the five years ago version of Stephanie that I think would really help that girl out.
1. You don't need to find someone to marry just because the people around you have found someone to marry.
Yeah, this was a BIG one for me, especially where I attended college. People call it a marriage factory and the description is not inaccurate. What I realize looking back is that I wanted to have someone to marry just so that I had at least one secure post grad plan. After graduation I didn't have a job lined up because I wanted to run my own business. But I didn't know how to run my own business because - well, how could I? I didn't know where I wanted to live and I could pick ANYWHERE on the map (which is actually really scary instead of being freeing like you might think). I just wanted to know one thing for sure. If I knew who I was going to marry that might even answer the other questions like where to live and work.
The point is, I graduated without a fiance and I was one of the only people I knew who did so. I had to figure out all of those post grad life questions on my own. It was terrifying, but one of the most valuable things I've ever been through. During that time I did meet a boy. He's awesome so married him.
2. Most people don't start at the top and that's OK.
I knew what I wanted to be (a high end wedding photographer), but I also knew that I wouldn't be able to just START there. At the time I interpreted this as a failure. I said to myself that other people who aren't starting their own businesses can just go apply for their dream job, get that dream job, have amazing lives and large savings accounts and adorable puppies and never have problems. What I see NOW is that this wasn't true for them either. Most people in my generation are starting from the bottom (cue Drake song - just kidding I hate his music don't cue Drake song). My husband now has an amazing job that he loves, but he had to work at Exxon for a year before landing that job. I have friends who have worked at Barnes and Noble, Old Navy, and Walmart. It wasn't their dream job, but those things were NOT failures. It's not a failure to have to start at the bottom and put in the time and work to be at the top.
3. When it comes to friends quality beats quantity.
While approaching graduation I was terrified I would lose all my friends because most of my friends would be graduating after me and would be immediately getting married. What I've come to learn is that YES, some of those people aren't in my life anymore. The people who ARE still in my life are going to be there until the very end. My post college life has been a natural culling of who stays in my life and who goes. Those who remain are my ride-or-die true crew. They've got my back for forever and I've got theirs. Those other folks? It wasn't meant to be and that's ok.
4. Being an adult is just like being a child.
I didn't have super strict parents, but like anybody I did have rules and I did have to obey whatever choice my parents made. I had freedom from that in college, but I went to a pretty strict Christian institution that had a dress code and a curfew. Post college life was going to be the first time that literally NOBODY could tell me what to do. Want to stay out all night? Do it. Want to eat ice cream for breakfast? Why not, you're an adult. Want to spend all of your money on shoes? Can't tell me not to. But you know what happened? I didn't stay out all night, only now I was the one telling MYSELF not to do that. I had to be at work in the morning! No one told me not to eat ice cream for breakfast... but I still never did. No one would even know if I spent my entire paycheck on shoes, but I've got bills to pay! Why would I spend all of my money on shoes? Being an adult is just like being a kid, only now you're your own parent. I would tell five years ago Stephanie to basically be happy where you're at. No stage in life is completely without responsibility or challenges. Hoping for that day is futile. Enjoy whatever freedoms your current stage in life does allow, and be ready for whatever is coming next.
5. It's all going to be fine - chill out.