When I finished college in late November, unemployed and living at home, I started watching “it gets better videos” to cheer myself up. Yes, I’m aware it is more than a stretch to compare myself to a struggling gay, bisexual or questioning youth, but the simple credo, “It gets better,” has held me loosely together as I stumble from one unpaid internship to the next.
Spring is the air and inspirational graduation speeches are flooding the internet. Although some of them are wonderfully candid and inspiring, the advice they give comes from on high. These people have achieved success and so no matter what they’ve gone through in the past they no longer have that intrusive beast, doubt, perched on their shoulder. They may think they still have it, but the doubt of a successful person is not the doubt of a twenty-something with only the vague outline of a dream.
My friends have been trickling out of academia for the past year with varying results. The best advice I’ve heard so far came from my friend Leena. She graduated last year and simply stated that she wished someone would’ve been real with her and told her that life is hard.
And to this I will add, life is hard and it is okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to be angry with the situation you’re in. It’s okay to say, “I could’ve been a contender!” with great angst and sadness every time you feel like you’ve wasted your undergraduate years studying something that isn’t going to make you any money. It’s even okay to be mad when your friends get internships and jobs before you.
Inspirational speakers say things like, “do something you’re proud of everyday” , “find something you love in the job that you can get” , “make something that matters.” To that I say, it’s okay if you don’t.
To the class of 2012, I herby give you permission to not believe in yourself all the time, to feel bad about not following your dreams, to not even have dreams and to feel like your life is one terrible mistake after the next. It’s okay. You are not alone.
Life is hard. There is no yellow-brick road leading to your destiny. You can’t achieve things just by wishing really hard, sometimes you can’t even get them by working really hard. But, if you’re lucky you have at least one person telling you not to give up. And they will reach down into that abyss you are wallowing in and tell you to get a hold of yourself.
Life is hard, yes. But it’s not just hard for you, it’s hard for everyone. Don’t let that bring you down, allow it to empower you.
What I’m trying to say is that you should not stress yourself out by feeling bad about feeling bad. (Because you will.) You need to allow yourself to admit, “this sucks,” when it sucks. But at the same time, you need to look in the mirror, make direct eye-contact and tell yourself, “it gets better” and you need to say it like you mean it, because then maybe you will.