I’ve always been a dreamer; the type of girl you wouldn’t take seriously until I showed you what I was truly capable of. My dreams and goals always dictated which way I would go in life, and I valued their guidance more than I valued the “smart and safe” choices that were presented to me. If I had a dream that my hair was dark, I would wake up the next morning and call the salon. If I had a dream that I moved away, I would do everything in my power to make it happen. And I did. I let a silly dream about a trip to Boston determine the next five years of my life. I studied music business in Boston, did three six-month internships in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, and never once regretted that I dove into a dream rather than picking a safer option for my education. As my time at school came to a close, I held onto my biggest dream of all: move to LA permanently and start my career. But, sometimes dreams don’t come true.
It’s been eight months since I graduated college and judging by the snow on the ground, I am not in California. Blame it on the negative sum in my bank account when I graduated, my newfound anxiety after the Boston Marathon bombings, or just plain bad luck, but I am back at home in Syracuse, NY. At first, being home was kind of nice. I traveled up and down the east coast with friends and family, went to Bonnaroo for the third time, caught up on TV shows that I had neglected while I was at school and slowly started applying to jobs out west. In my head, it seemed like everything was going to work out, but when the situation started to seem less than ideal, I decided to do something I had never done before: be realistic.
In my attempt to “make smart choices,” I applied to a lot of part-time jobs in the area. I figured I could get a job, save some money and then figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life when the time was right. After months of searching, I finally found that job, and things have been looking up ever since. If you had told me a year ago that I would be working in my hometown, I would have laughed in your face. But now that this life is my reality, it oddly makes a lot of sense.
As strange as it sounds, I’m happy I’m not in LA right now. Is it hard working part-time when so many of my friends have found their dream jobs? Obviously. Is it difficult living at home when I have lived on my own for the past five years? You know it. But here’s the thing, I believe in fate just as much as I believe in dreams. If I’m not living the life I dreamed up for myself right now, there is a reason. I may not know why yet, but I am supposed to be here in this moment. Maybe it’s the universe’s way of knocking me back down to earth for a bit, or maybe there’s something I need to do before I can properly live out the life I was intended to. Maybe I’m not even supposed to move away. Who knows? I may have gotten lucky in life before, but this minor setback doesn’t mean I’ve lost my luck. I’ve just learned to view this situation as a gift, and if you’re in the same boat, here are a few of the things I’ve learned that make it a little easier:
Make friends. If you’re back in your hometown, track down old friends from high school, or just make new friends (at work, the gym, classes, etc.). Become friends with opposites, kindred spirits, people older than you, people younger than you, or anyone you find interesting. Befriend people who challenge and support you, because you never know what role you may play in each other’s lives in the future.
Do more. Whether you are working part-time, full-time or not at all, make the most of this transitional period. Read the books you’ve always wanted to read. Watch all of the seasons of a TV show you’ve been meaning to watch. Learn an instrument. Join a gym. Study a new language. Write. If I hadn’t been home struggling to find a job, I never would have written this essay. Writing for Lydia has allowed me to hold onto the things I am passionate about while still navigating through this hard time. Find what you love, and work hard not to lose it.
Be positive. You are not a failure because you didn’t immediately start making $100,000 a year when you graduated. You’re not a loser for living at home when you’re 23. You’re not weak when you ask someone for help. Graduating college and finding a job is hard, and you are not obligated to find something right away or even know exactly what you want. You have time. Don’t settle for something less than what you want or deserve.
Be thankful. If you are fortunate enough to have a support system that will help you through this time, thank them. Thank the friends who let you sleep on their couches and the parents who took you back in. Thank the employers who gave you an opportunity regardless of whether or not it was exactly what you were looking for. Life isn’t always easy, but be grateful for the people who make it a little bit simpler.
Have faith that things will work out for you. If you’re lucky enough to have some source of income (no matter how small), a strong support group, a passion, and the ambition to make your life the best it can possibly be, then you are already on the right track. Things may seem hard right now, but if you work hard enough and take advantage of all of the little things thrown your way, you are destined to live an extraordinary life. You may have to wait for it, but it will happen.
I may have chosen to take a more realistic approach to my life in the past few months, but I’ve never once lost track of the girl who used to let her dreams and her heart guide her. Sometimes our “happily ever after” doesn’t happen when we want it to, but maybe that just means we were meant to write more pages to the story.
Lauren Mahaffy is a Syracuse, NY native and a recent graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in music business. As much as she would love to be in LA eating burgers at In-N-Out and working at a record label, she is currently spending some time at home with her dog, Princess Sparkle. When she is not job hunting, she can be found binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, posting funny gifs on Tumblr, and singing Miley Cyrus songs in the car. Read her embarrassing tweets @laurenmahaffy