It’s been one year and six days since I donned a gown and cap and crossed the stage in the Anglican Cathedral of Liverpool and received my degree in Business and Public Relations.
A glorious day that started with a too early ceremony (let’s pretend that I didn’t fall asleep during one course’s 100 student roll-call) and ended with a few drinks and a meal at my favourite restaurant in Liverpool (that’s Mowgli if you’re interested).
A year later and I no longer find myself in Liverpool, but instead New York. I remember feeling a lot of emotions this time last year as I had no idea what I was doing with my life after graduation.
I can’t even begin to imagine what this year’s graduating class of 2020 are going through in terms of job-hunting, travelling and getting ready to face a world after student-life.
In the space of 12 months a lot has changed and I’ve learnt quite a few things. Here’s five:
1. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN
Who knew that only eight months after I graduated the world would be concerning itself with a virus pandemic
and not concerning itself with me and my plans to travel around America.
The concern and panic had only really begun in New York when I had to quarantine for two weeks (yes, I’ve had the ‘rona) and my birthday in New York was spent locked in my apartment #goals.
What I’ve learnt in the past 12 months is to expect the unexpected. Nothing is set in stone and everything can change in a short amount of time. So many people lost jobs, loved ones, their homes and so much more, unexpectedly.
We have to learn to be ready for the unexpected. Have contingency plans in place (where possible, obviously) and be thankful for everything you have as it could all be taken away tomorrow. Be grateful for the little things.
2. IT ALWAYS WORKS OUT
This was pre-corona but let’s roll with it. I was suuuuper stressed out at the end of my final year (and for the other 99% of it) as I didn’t have a job lined up and I had no idea what I was going to do.
I was in the process of applying for the program I’m on here in New York (read more about that here: How and Why I Moved to New York) but that took around six months and was constantly a waiting game on top of ‘will it or won’t it happen?’.
I was a bit of a nutcase for a year, constantly looking for signs that would tell me what was going to happen next. When I stayed in Vegas, my room window looked onto the New York, New York Hotel, so I woke up to that in my face every morning. I took that among 30 other things to be a sign that it was going to happen.
Related: Seven Days in Viva Las Vegas, Nevada
I was also interviewing for jobs in London at the same time just in case and also looking at the possibility of moving to Canada or Europe. I had no idea what I wanted to do but I wanted to go somewhere new and if possible, not London.
But as they say, and as I try to believe (most of the time) what’s for you won’t pass you and everything always works out.
I was stressing in the taxi on the way to Liverpool Airport on my last day in the city before moving home (with no future plan to leave Ireland) when I received a call to schedule my New York interview. And the rest as they say, is history.
3. TAKE WHAT LIFE THROWS AT YOU
Ok, time to get a little bit personal. I’m a bit of a loner. Not in the sense that I have no friends, but I always like to do things by myself and like my own company.
In my final year I lived by myself and loved it. I do a lot of things on my own and am quite proud of how independent I am and have always been. Even when moving to London for my placement year, I didn’t know a sinner in the city but was excited at the prospect of a year in the Big Smoke.
Again, moving to New York (having never been before in my life) I was doing it by myself. I was going somewhere where I didn’t know anybody but I was going to make a life for myself for the next 12 months.
So when it came to a love life, I never liked to get into relationships because I was always planning my next escape to a new city. I didn’t want anyone to hold me back or to tie me down.
Roll on 12 months from my graduation and being a strong, independent woman and I’m now in a relationship. I was always one to say a strong ‘no’ to dates, but I was in a brand new city and New York of all places, so I went in with the mindset to say ‘yes’ to just about everything.
Thankfully travel plans are still in place, but I’ll be booking tickets for two instead of one. The me 12 months ago would never have imagined this.
4. IT’S NOT A RACE
Recently I’ve been looking at friends and old colleagues and seeing them getting promoted in their jobs. I’m seeing friends get engaged. I’m seeing more people I went to school with buy houses, move in with their partners and have children.
Yet here I am on the other side of the world with no intention of settling down any time soon. But should I have those intentions?
Should I be in a graduate job already on my way up the corporate ladder? Should I be in a job that I can see myself in for the next five years? Should this be the job that I want to do for the rest of my life?
I had all of these thoughts over the weekend and have had them the last few months too, but then I reminded myself that I’m only 23.
I have so much time ahead to spend working that I will only be in my twenties once. I want to see the world, live in different cities and have a lot of different jobs. That’s my plan and that’s what I’m sticking to.
No more comparing my pace of life to others of the same age and there will be no more thinking that I’m in a race against anyone else. The only person I should be competing against is myself.
5. NEVER STOP LEARNING
I miss education. There, I said it.
During my final year, I remember thinking about those nights when I wouldn’t have an essay hanging over my head, when I wouldn’t be in a bar and suddenly feel a pang of guilt because I wasn’t sat at my laptop or in the library. Those days are over and I’m thankful that they are.
But now that I’m out of education, I want nothing more than to be back in it.
I want to learn more about everything and anything. I’m reading as much as possible in a way to try and learn more, even if that’s fiction or non-fiction (you can catch up with everything that I’ve read so far this year here: Every Book I’ve Read in 2020).
I also wouldn’t say no to going back to education. How snazzy would it be to have a pHd? I doubt I’m cut out for that, but I miss writing essays about things that I enjoy and have an interest in. My blog is basically 350+ essays anyway – would that qualify me for a pHd?
I’ve learnt that there are more important topics to talk about than my favourite skincare products. There are more pressing matters to discuss and educate myself on and I want to try and write more about them, to educate and help anyone that reads this.
I’m reading, I’m listening, I’m watching, I’m learning and I’m acting. In the last 12 months, I’ve learnt that I can no longer be silent on things that shouldn’t happen in the world and I want to help make a difference.