There were times when I could think of at least 5 Brandeis peers who were well on their way to becoming married doctors while I was living on a couch and working for a ski pass. I know I have had so much fun and I made deliberate choices to shape my life this way and steered it in a direction of travel and adventure. I have no regrets about any of these choices, but from time to time comparison monsters start creeping in.
One specific example was when I attended a friend’s wedding and sat staring at the bottom of a glass of Merlot while my peers traded stories about med school at Yale, law school at Duke and various Teach for America positions. I offered up the scariest route on the mountain I had conquered that season and bragged that I had nowhere to be every day until 4.
It gets hard to stay focused on just myself and not worry about what my peers are accomplishing. I strive to be a person who is not only completely comfortable and happy with my own path but also thrilled that my peers are off following theirs.
Lately, my head has been spinning a little bit about what comes next and for the first time in a long time I am feeling like I have the itch to really build a career, find meaningful work I can throw myself into and build a skill set that takes time and dedication to hone. I also want to be surrounded with like-minded people who push and inspire me but…just like in May of 2009, I have no idea what it looks like.
I have not reached out to Brandeis since I graduated for fear of being judged, but I recently realized that nobody can judge you unless you give them permission to and I do not give anyone permission to judge me. I know my story, I know what I’ve learned and I know I have been living a life that is right for me, it has been daring, adventurous and ever-changing. It’s been hard and scary at times and there has never ever been a clear path in front of me. It has been exactly what I wanted it to be.
I have been researching my career options lately and trying to turn over every stone I can think of. It’s got my head spinning and not in the good way, I was going in circles and making myself anxious. I needed help. I decided it was time to stop hiding, stare Brandeis in the face and say “this is me, and I am good enough.”
So, in the name of pushing my boundaries and facing my fears…
I called a Brandeis career counselor.
Making the phone call to even make the appointment made me feel a little nauseous, my stomach was jumbling and I had an imaginary conversation with an extremely rude career counselor in my head and she somehow knew all my innermost and darkest demons.
The phone rang.
A kid answered.
She asked what year I graduated in and my major. She is judging me I thought as I pictured her rolling her eyes when I told her I had graduated 7 years ago and still hadn’t started a career. “What is this concerning?” she asked…my stomach tightened even more and I squeaked out “general.”
Fast forward to the day of the appointment and I had a rich beautiful, completely judgement free conversation with a complete professional who spoke to me from a place of absolute kindness and understanding.
Every time I have made myself face a fear this year, from giving a stranger my phone number, to trying a new activity, to moving a foreign country, the anticipation has always been worse than the actual event. It has made me question why I spend more time standing on the edge than jumping off it. This appointment was no exception.
The first thing she told me was I need to look inside myself and do some self-reflection. I told her I have been self-reflecting so hard since I got here I would classify it as aggressive. The second thing she told me to do was define my values (which was an assignment in the Brene Brown Course I am taking, and a totally worthwhile was to send an afternoon) Then she told me to define my mission and what it is I want to contribute (I had been tasked this in another E-Course I took called Your Next Bold Move by Brendan Bruchard, and had watched several Ted Talks on this topic lately). Then she told me to brainstorm every possible role and organization that would be in line with my values and help me fulfill my personal mission. Which I spend a lot of my time doing in the name of daydreaming, not career advancement.
The biggest gift she gave me was telling me she would not return phone calls or e-mails outside of business hours because she values her personal life and draws a hard boundary there (self-care and boundaries are 2 more things I have been reading a lot about this year).
The last thing she said was to reach out to people who hold these positions and asked specific questions about their experiences (I had sent 3 e-mails this week).
At one point she even said “We don’t even care if you work at Starbucks’s we just want you to be happy. Brandeis will always welcome you and you have a place here.”
I burst into tears.
I couldn’t believe I had built this demon up in my head SO BIG and carried this weight around with me for years just to have a phone call where I was told to do exactly what I was doing.
But I am sure glad I did.
When the conversation was over I sent her an e-mail trying to detail what that conversation had meant to me and how much I appreciated her patience, kindness and lack of judgement. She said many Brandeis graduates go off to satiate a wanderlust and my peers are doing myriad things, they are not all doctors. She said the most important thing was when you get the itch to listen.
It really made me feel like I can dream big and with a little work a steady income in a place I love doing work that gives me meaning is not just a possibility in my life but something that is on the cusp of fruition. When and if I am ready for it, and if not this travel life is just fine too.