22.

 Photo by Jennifer Yu.

This is an interesting stage in my life. There was so much excitement, anxiety, hope, disappointment, uncertainty, optimism swarming my every thought as I counted down the days to graduation. There was lots of pressure from peers, professors, family members asking me what I'm doing next, and honestly, I'm not sure. After 17 years of being a student, it's finally time to enter the real world, and that transition is bigger than anything I've ever done in life. 

College was where I began my double (triple, quadruple at times) life. Architecture was "school." Photography and my two minors were "hobbies." Many things (taco-making food service person, graphic designer, a bunch of random side hustles) were "work." And many other things (news photographer, club vice president, editor-in-chief) were "extracurriculars." With a life so full and busy, how can you define yourself with one title?

After college ends, everything you've done comes to an end. Those tiny successes you had in school don't mean anything in the real world. So we must quickly move onto the next chapter of our lives. There's such a rush for people my age in American culture to define who you're going to be for the rest of your life. It's a race to see who can settle on a path and start moving their way to "adulthood."

But more complicated than that is my desire to switch out of my field of study, architecture, and go into photography and art directing. I've been teaching myself, practicing, and convincing my parents to believe in me for the past five years, and now they finally do. But now what do I do?

I scroll through social media everyday and see all the successful people living their dreams and enjoying the fruits of their labor. I see them with their circle of successful friends and aspire to be like them in ten years. But I never see the struggle they had in getting to where they are. I'm sure they've had moments in life similar to what I'm going through now, sitting in my parent's home after graduation not knowing what in the world I'm doing with my life. 

22 is such an uncertain time. Without school, there's no longer a path for me to follow. I'm applying to jobs, trying to grab opportunities and interject myself into other's worlds. The corporate architecture world didn't want me, so that wasn't meant to be. Fine. But I want a job, so I can start making a living, move away from home, find a second family within my work environment, and be a part of something again. And I also want to pursue my passions in photography, but someone like me with so little formal training and work experience in the field won't be working a paid job as I start out. With my formal and informal education, what do I have to offer the world? Is being self-taught enough to allow for success? How do I go about creating opportunities for myself? What kind of jobs should I even be looking for? How do I start my dream?

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At this point in my life, who am I? Am I a jack of all trades, master of none? Am I a failure who wasted my entire college education because I don't have a full-time job lined up? Because real talk, that's exactly how I feel every other day. 

How do you "adult"? Is it taking that corporate job to become financially independent enough for your parents not to worry? Is it giving up your passions so you can be a professional with social prestige and your own cubicle? Is it finding a middle ground, something to get you started but not quite there? Or is it following your heart, moving to a new place, risking it all to fight for a dream you have a small likelihood of achieving?

I think a large part of growing up is learning not to compete with others. It's one of my biggest struggles. It's really hard for me to be proud of who I am and what I do, because there's always someone who has it better. I'm great at seeing the negative side of things and playing every fear-filled scenario in my head. Worst of all, this disapproval applies to what I think of myself. I have a bad relationship with myself, and I need to work on that. Truly loving yourself and not giving up on yourself is one of the hardest things you can do. 

I guess I can should end this stream of consciousness on a more positive note. I'm a little excited for the future. I plan to make my dreams come true. I plan to meet so many awesome people, and do so many crazy fun things with them. I plan to travel the world. I plan to spend my free time volunteering for causes I truly care about. I plan to further my education, learn new languages, learn life lessons, learn from the amazing people I'm going to meet. I plan to be a boss lady at some point. I plan to work hard to make a living doing something exciting, something I love. And most important, make a meaningful life for myself so I'll never be bored.

There's so many different directions I can go right now. I guess it's just up to me to choose freedom over fear, face the unknown with hope and positivity, and remind myself to be patient. It's just the beginning. No one said it was going to be fast or easy.

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Til next time,

Sophia