How I Survived My First Year After College
Meant Redefining Success
To say that I was excited to graduate college would be an understatement. I was ecstatic.
My college experience was less-than-satisfying, to say the least. I was one of very few Black students in a predominantly white, super conservative student body around the time Trump was first elected to office. These conditions made finding friends, solidifying my beliefs, and developing my voice as a writer all the more meaningful.
In college, a big part of my identity was found in the people I surrounded myself with—often other loud and obnoxious women who also had “controversial” things to say about our university’s retrograde politics. We were a collective of writers, photographers and artists, who in addition to shaking things up on our college campus were doing everything we could at our internships and off-campus jobs to make sure we’d be set up well after graduation.
For me, that meant writing and taking photos as much as I could. In addition to writing research papers and weekly screenplays for class, I was writing 1-2 editorial articles a month and doing photoshoots on a regular basis. I used Instagram as an unofficial portfolio, posting about all of my photo projects and linking every article in my bio. With every accomplishment, I felt like I was one step closer to my “dream job,” which, at the time looked like being a freelance writer, living in New York City and somehow having a book deal by age 22.
Despite having built an incredible portfolio during undergrad, I graduated without a single job prospect on the horizon. Instead of hopping on a plane to New York immediately after graduation, I took the freeway back to my parents’ house where I was forced to reckon with my burgeoning adulthood in the confines of my childhood bedroom.
I’d been told before that the first year after college is the hardest. But the severity of it all didn’t quite hit until I was in the thick of it—when my graduation money had dwindled down, and one by one my friends moved across the country to start their new and exciting lives.
Being back in my hometown, without my friends and my schoolwork as a distraction, I was suddenly unsure about what I wanted to do, or who I wanted to be. The idea of moving to a city where I wouldn’t know anyone didn’t sound so appealing anymore. And at the time, I had a work-from-home internship that was making me realize how unenjoyable working freelance would be for me.
I was stumped. I had built up so much of my identity around my college goals and a “dream job” that I didn’t even want anymore. Graduating came with so many emotional and interpersonal challenges—trying to make new friends, mending broken relationships, and working through a breakup—that it began to feel important that I cultivate a strong sense of self, outside of my creative pursuits. I wanted to feel grounded and secure in myself, no matter what path I ended up taking with my career.
Eventually, I got hired here at The Good Trade, where I took on the role of Social Media Coordinator and got do what I love most: writing! I started making new friends, going to therapy, and saving up to move out of my parents’ place. I was putting a stake in the ground here in LA, and getting into a new rhythm that was very comforting and enjoyable for me. I now had the time and space to begin focusing on some of the areas of my life I’d neglected while I was busy hustling in college. I began dedicating most of my free time to my emotional and physical self-care.
Through this re-direction of my energy, I learned a lot about myself and the kind of person I want to be. I even reflected on many of these lessons through my articles on The Good Trade. I wrote about advocating for myself, navigating difficult conversations, and becoming more emotionally balanced—all of which are areas of personal growth I’ve worked on diligently over the past year.
I have become more sure of myself in ways that would have been unimaginable just a year ago. I may not know exactly what I want to “do with my life,” but I do know that I can leave the party early if I want to. I know that I need at least eight hours of sleep to have an enjoyable day. I know how to speak up when the barista gets my order wrong. Somehow, these realizations about the small things feel more important than the uncertainty about the bigger picture.
Still, every now and then I feel a tinge of failure for not adhering to the goals of my past. When I posted photos of my new apartment in Long Beach on Instagram for the first time, I received a DM from an old friend asking, “Is this in New York?” I’ve realized that when you are vocal about your goals, it opens the door for other people to hold you to them. It’s in these moments that I have to remind myself that my goals can change. Changing my goals doesn’t make me less of an ambitious person, it makes me a dynamic person.
A year ago, I never would’ve imagined that I’d end up working in LA, living in an apartment not too far from my parents, and (surprise, surprise!) with no book deal. Yet, I can’t imagine being anywhere else other than exactly where I am right now. The process by which I ended up here was so intentional and unique to me, that I feel no need to measure myself against anyone else’s standards of success—not even that of my past self.
My idea of success no longer exists within the confines of a certain job title, in a certain city, and with a certain amount of Instagram followers. Rather, it is defined by my sense of grounded-ness and self-awareness. This definition is also ever-changing as my needs and desires are.
I know that a year from now, I’ll be in a completely different headspace, perhaps with a completely different set of goals. But for now, I am happy with where my path has taken me, and am excited for the unfolding that is ahead of me.
Celeste M. Scott is the Social Media Coordinator at The Good Trade. She is a writer and photographer who is passionate about film and Internet culture. She can often be found sifting through the racks at her local Savers. You can find her work on her website and Instagram.