Something nobody told me is that after graduating college, you might feel like a failure.
Sure, you accomplished all those great things and got a degree, but there’s also the looming dread of what now?
My advice: Don’t panic. Some people may not admit it, but we’ve all been there, and the truth is no matter what you do next, odds are, you’ll at least learn something.
My first job out of college landed me in a community reporting position with the Pine Journal. I was fortunate enough to seal the deal in the month leading up to graduation, and before I knew it, I was in the real world — grinding away, trying to give value to my college tuition.
I think “crash course” is the best way to describe the first few weeks in any new job, and the Pine Journal was no exception. From community events to court cases to school boards, I quickly learned that there was much to learn.
Aside from getting to know the ins and outs of community reporting, I also gleaned a lot about journalism in general and what it's like working outside my comfort zone. Sure, I had experienced reporting while in college, but these experiences were not the same thing as a full-time career position.
Besides asking my amazing coworkers a million questions, the majority of my 40-hour work week was spent asking complete strangers about their lives, their jobs, their families, their secrets. I interviewed people from all fields and areas of life. Being soft-spoken was no longer an option.
Even though some days were easier than others, there was never a time when I regretted talking to a source. There was not a story or experience I wished had not happened. Every interview, every story, added to my knowledge of the community and my own skill set.
Prior to my job at the Pine Journal, I liked to think of myself as an expert in all things writing. I was always the one to edit my friends' papers in college and high school. Grammar was my jam, and I had the A’s to prove it.
So writing for a living should be easy, right? Wrong.
It didn’t take long for me to realize I had some growing to do. Even my most well-written stories had room for improvement, and making those improvements wasn’t always easy.
Reading over edits to my work, I would sometimes wonder if I had made a huge mistake majoring in journalism — maybe I wasn’t even that good of a writer. Maybe I was, God forbid, average.
On top of that, every once in a while, my gut would twist as I realized there was a mistake in a story. The first correction I wrote felt like a sledgehammer to my thin wall of confidence.
I cried. I ranted to my mom. I debated smashing my phone.
But then I realized, it was all OK. These corrections, these improvements, were how I was going to grow. Everyone has been wrong before, and everyone has room to improve in their work. Even Woodward and Bernstein were given edits.
Finding balance for myself was crucial, whether it was balancing self-criticism with self-praise or balancing a good work ethic with personal time. Balance gave me sanity, and I stopped panicking long enough to actually enjoy my job.
I met so many amazing people and learned more than I could have ever wanted — and this experience was just the tip of the iceberg. It has been almost a year since I graduated college, and honestly, I still don't know what's next … and I'm good with that, because I know that no matter what I do, I'll definitely learn and grow from it.
So I guess if you made it this far in my “how to adult” rant and if you’re looking for some kind of summary, I would say this: Nobody knows how to adult. You will have more to learn after college, and that’s OK. You might make mistakes, and that's OK. You might realize the career you wanted isn't for you, and that's OK.
Remember to go easy on yourself and find that balance wherever you may need it. College is just the beginning.
Izabel Johnson, a reporter for the Pine Journal for the past year, is moving on to pursue creative writing projects. She wrote this for the Duluth News Tribune's annual Back to College special section. Follow her on Twitter @lzJohnson97.