By Jamé Jackson
I remember waking up the day after graduation feeling nauseous, a type of nausea that usually accompanies me on job interviews, exam days, or even the first time my boyfriend took me out on a date. It was a feeling I wasn’t really excited for, but I thought to myself, “Self, you just graduated college. You’re probably still worked up over that intense feeling. Don’t fret though, here’s to the rest of your life!”
Instead of being like many of my friends who found themselves popping bottles and partying into the wee hours of the morning to celebrate the biggest day thus far of our young lives, I found myself pacing the floors of my house wondering what was my next step. Contrary to the vision I had had for myself even four years prior, I wasn’t graduating with honors, with a deluxe new apartment in the sky, or even with a job based on salary and benefits. I remembered sitting in my room, tears flowing from my face as I sat and realized that I, truly, didn’t have the answers to the questions of my life.
“Well Jamé, what do you want to do, you know, as a career?” The unbearable question I felt tugged at my heartstrings. I felt I died a little inside every time the question was asked. It felt like I couldn’t just breathe for a second as a student. It felt like being a musician, being a writer, being a worker in a restaurant chain weren’t worthy of any proper acknowledgement. The worst thing, however, is that I didn’t have an answer to that question. I still don’t. And that haunts me everyday.
In my only 22 years of young living on this Earth, I’ve had to learn and prioritize what is important to me and what I could only hope to procure out of life. Through trial and error, I have learned that my own personal truth is the only thing in which I have to answer to. I had to learn, as I continue to everyday, that my own personal journey is unique in that it is MY OWN. Despite the love and affection I may receive from others who try to push me into their light, I can only create my own for myself. The thing I have learned is that I can only be the best me possible, regardless of who she looks like to anyone else.
Life is a strange thing. We’re taught from a young age what milestones we have to hit by a certain age. We’re taught to have our lives together by the beginning of college, intern, work and produce amazing grades during college, and then enter into the workforce right after college knowing exactly what we will do the rest of our lives. For an out-of-the-box thinker such as myself, I learned I was doing myself more harm than good trying to keep up with the Jones’.
I couldn’t, and still cannot, conceptualize me doing one thing for the rest of my life. I have always loved being multifaceted, but where are the people encouraging young people to pursue ALL of their dreams? Who is to say I have to only have a 9-5 job? I can’t also have a 5-9, or a weekend-only, or a contractual type of job? Why is society so warped around this perception of happiness that we don’t discuss the real issues of life? While I can’t count how many times I’ve been bombarded with the “So, what are you doing now that you’re out of school?” questions, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been asked am I happy, am I learning a new craft, or am I exploring aspects of me that I never could in school. Where I used to give others power over my life and actions, I’ve learned to take it back and happily bask in my personal journey. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
While my situation may not be the most ideal, I have learned that things will come in due time if I just patiently wait and open myself to the experience. I won’t lie, I do still have doubts at times and find myself being a hardass for not being where I want to be. However, I’ve learned that I am content in where I am and I am doing just fine. I’ve learned that the process of the journey is to teach you something, and that you should never be apologetic of who you are simply because you’re not living up to other’s expectations of you. At the end of the day, when the lights are out, and the city is silent, and all are in their beds, the only thing you will have are your thoughts that will loudly remind you if you are happy or not. Honestly, as long as my bills are paid, I am learning to care less about what others push on me, and more on what energies I pull to myself. It’s a journey. Enjoy it.
Jamé Jackson is a recent graduate of Howard University, where she graduated Cum Laude with a double major in English and Classics. A writer and classical pianist, Jamé loves traveling the D.C. area, performing in music halls and poetry ciphers. She has performed at Studio Theatre, Signature Theatre, the Kennedy Center as well as Broadway. In the near future, she plans to travel overseas to continue humanitarian work in Haiti.