I came to Ithaca College at 22, after a frustrating year of odd jobs and that sinking feeling that I was no longer in control of my life. I picked journalism because I once liked to write, and my mother thought I could at least make a living at it.
I used to believe that everyone is meant to do something really well, and if that something is never found or realized to its full potential you were a failure. At least that’s how I felt after admitting that acting wasn’t for me.
I graduated from an acting conservatory in New York City when I was 19 with little more than a piece of paper, a repertoire of memorized monologues and some of my best friends to this day. I had big city plans that didn’t include becoming a waitress or a secretary in a car dealership, but somehow those odd jobs became my reality.
But then I started writing again.
And now, four years later, I find myself at that same, uncertain crossroads, just like every other graduating senior who is wondering what the uncertain job market will bring. Even with the recently reported positive outlook for graduates, it’s hard to erase four years of dropping stocks and rising unemployment rates.
There is a panic that can be felt among my classmates; I feel it too every time I congratulate one of our own for getting a job while I continue to check my e-mail like a crazy person, clicking on job search engines every hour.
But then I remember I’ve been here before. And that somehow I ended up right where I needed to be.
Ithaca College and The Ithacan changed my life, literally. Before I came here I didn’t know that I could change my path while still keeping the things that make me who I am. I already had the storytelling skills; I just needed to learn how to use them.
I learned that just because my childhood dreams didn’t work out, it doesn’t make me a failure — it was just one of many life experiences that helped point me in the right direction without me even knowing where I was headed. Changing careers isn’t unheard of anymore, and having multiple interests can only make you more marketable. Graduates cannot control what the job market will look like or whether their dream jobs will ever come to fruition, but they can trust in the hard work, knowledge and life skills they have acquired these past four years. We don’t control our destiny, whatever that is, but we do have power over the things we do to prepare for the future we want.
An editor from one of my summer internships recently reminded me that all college graduates have to work their way up, telling me about his first job at a small daily in Wisconsin. But that’s hard for our “now” generation to swallow, even though public policy think tank Demos recently reported that this generation of 20-somethings will be the first in a century that is unlikely to be better off financially than their parents.
I wish I could say that now at 25 I have it all figured out — for some reason that was the age I expected it to happen — but I don’t. I’m not even sure if I’m close. I don’t have that dream job lined up yet or even some idea of where I’ll be in the next four months, but that’s the exciting part — not knowing what will come next. I’ve been here before, yes, but this time I know that life does indeed take unexpected, yet calculated turns along the way. My experiences have taught me that it is in those uncertain moments we land on our feet in the most surprising ways.
Lindsey Hollenbaugh is a senior journalism major and the editor in chief of The Ithacan. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.