The months leading up to college graduation were full of looming, unanswerable questions. Loaded with student debt but detached from reality, I spent half of my nights searching Indeed.com and submitting my resume to everything from high school soccer coach to social media director to marketing consultant positions. Why? Because I was torn between trying to avoid a desk job, being completely confused about what positions I actually had a chance of getting, and knowing I should be sensible and make some major money. The other half of my nights were spent completely avoiding any thoughts of the outside world as I lived up my last few months with friends. Ultimately, I would graduate college having decided to camp for six months and cut down overpopulated tree species out West for AmeriCorps.
Let me give you some quick background on what had been going on through my head:
First off, at the beginning of my last semester, my boyfriend of 7 years–and with whom I had been living–broke up with me. After about 2 days of crying, I stubbornly but firmly decided that I would not be depressed my last few months of college. Instead, this typically responsible, go-to-the-beat-of-your-own-drum girl was out partying every night, being desirably spontaneous and having absolutely no energy to do anything but just finish up classes. So in essence, I was my own weird version of depressed. Between the emotional rollercoaster, trying to finish up the last of my classes and thesis, working multiple jobs, and thinking about the future ahead, I was exhausted. I was burnt out from four years of working way too hard, dedicating myself to another person, and stressing about pretty much everything.
Needless to say, I needed a break from what I felt was a hectic and constraining lifestyle and looked for any opportunity outside of the norm: teaching abroad in Spain, volunteering to save sea turtles, training monkeys to perform lifesaving surgeries. (That last one was made up.) But really, I told myself that because no employer had chomped at the bait I’d thrown them anyway, I should just do something fun and different.
Meanwhile, a college-friend-and-coworker-now-alumna messaged me on Facebook around February to let me know that the place she worked, National Geographic* (yeah, I know, right?!), might be hiring interns this summer in marketing. (We had both worked together in marketing on-campus.) Although thrilled and flattered that she had thought to reach out to me, I didn’t invest too much hope in it. No matter how deserving I might be, what were the chances that I would ever work for National Geographic?
Then one day, I got a call from AmeriCorps for an interview. The crux of the entire thing was pretty much “are you okay being sweaty and dirty and being around the same 10 people constantly?” Yeah! I thought. This is exactly what I need. I’ve never been out West–I’ll find myself, meet new people, get lost in the wilderness. Maybe do some writing and photography. It will be epic. The guy also liked that I was a biology major, so he offered the job to me, and I verbally accepted on the spot.
I had not been my usual self the last few months. This was completely apparent when Nat Geo friend messaged me more details about the internship, and I literally told her that I didn’t know if I could apply for an internship at my dream company because I had already accepted a glorified volunteer job. Who knows why? It was some combination of thinking I wouldn’t get it anyway, wanting to avoid a desk job, and mostly, not thinking clearly. But, I sent her my application anyway.
The weeks leading up to graduation, I am slowly becoming scared as shit. As friends and labmates donate hardcore camping equipment and give me advice on how to sleep in the snow, I realize a number of things: I have not been camping that many times. I have no idea what to do if I see a wild animal. I hate living with other people. I have never used a chainsaw in my life.
But it was too late. My destiny was set, and it was time to buck up and prepare for my wild west adventures–or so I thought.
Here’s the super short version of the madness that ensued:
After graduation, I had two weeks until I left for my AmeriCorps job. A few days after the commencement ceremony, further investigations into my housing situation revealed that a guy on our crew who had volunteered to hold down an apartment for all of us had completely gotten the dates wrong–we couldn’t move in until a month later. It also turns out that there is a housing shortage where we would be working.
That same week, I get an e-mail from National Geographic inviting me to an interview. Panicked and angry about the housing situation, I silently thanked whoever is up above for miraculously giving me this open door after making terrible decisions based on terrible logic. The hard work and friendships I had made prior to my last semester of college carried me through–Nat Geo liked my resume, liked my peer’s recommendation, and liked my enthusiasm. (I think, anyway.)
And just like that, my pseudo-lumberjack future was over, and I had one week to figure out how I was going to go from small-town America to our nation’s capital.
Check out next week’s post about how I got my crap together in a week.
*Please note that I will not answer questions about my employment at National Geographic. I also will not provide anything but superficial, non-confidential details about my employment in future posts as my work experience is not the focus of this blog–it’s just part of the story. This post was created in the hopes that my audience will gain an understanding of the experience of the mixed emotions of graduation, finding and sticking to a career path, and getting a job post-graduation. All thoughts and opinions are my own.