As long as I can remember, I’ve always been ready for the next step. In fact, I’ve always been three steps ahead of the next step.

Maybe it’s a generational thing – what with the constant pressure to nap well in pre-school in order to win the spelling bees in elementary school and get straight A’s, volunteer, and participate in every club for the remainder of your eternal academic career. You have to go to college after high school, but not just any college, a college with a great reputation and an Honors program because your undergraduate degree is just the segue to your three advanced degrees. You have to become some amazingly successful semi-celebrity with an MD, PhD, and JD and a 100K following on Twitter to even be considered mildly worthy. The air reeks of rampant competition.

Maybe it’s just my personality – I’m always ready to start something new and continue learning but not in a spontaneous manner. I’m the kind of person that writes things in my planner or in Google Calendar and actually follows it. Sure, I procrastinate on Facebook or Twitter just like the next person, but in the end, I always complete what needs to be done well before the deadline and am already thinking about my next task. Given this information, it should make sense that in middle school, I couldn’t wait to get to high school; in high school, I performed thorough research about the college admissions process of colleges I would apply to two years ahead of time and had my major set in stone; in college, I was ready to finish my program, graduate, and begin my life in the “real world”.

This past December, I graduated from Brandeis University in 3.5 years with 2 degrees in Neuroscience and Biology, and I’m damn proud of myself for my accomplishments. It was a long and difficult road, but I made it. I’ve learned that no matter the societal or environmental pressures, you must take a moment to realize that finishing a degree is not an elementary undertaking. You have a higher education that you can carry with you for the rest of your life, and no one can ever take that away from you. So it all sounds great, right? Not exactly.

This is the first time that the next step in life isn’t spelled out for me. I decided that for my health, sanity, self-exploration, and financial purposes, it would be necessary for me to take at least a year and a half to work a full-time job and live outside of academia for a little while. Yes, I’ve dreamed of going to medical school for most of my life, so in 1-2 years, there will be another application process, another 4 years planned out. But for the time being – I just feel stuck. I’ve been on my job search for a couple of months now, and it’s no ballgame to find something that is both a good fit for you and a good fit for the company. There are so many factors to consider: hours, location, enjoyment, benefits, salary… the list goes on and on. For seniors in college, talking about post-graduation plans is taboo because it feels like you’re being thrown into a tank of wild sharks after 16 years of structure.

It’s not that I miss college, but I definitely understand the post-grad blues. Your dream job is also 50 other people’s dream job. It’s not easy to succeed, but sometimes you have to fall down before you can get back up. With several weeks to myself, calming down from my final semester of incessant studying while thinking about how I’m ever going to make enough money to put myself through medical school while doing something I enjoy, I’ve come to a realization. I have a college degree – I can do anything from this point forward. There are plenty of successful people who either never went to college or received a degree that has nothing to do with their present-day career. My only obstacle is myself because as long as I have the confidence and drive to accomplish my goals, I will persevere. Success is a funny word – it means different things to different people. No matter what it means to you, it comes from within; it’s up to you to bring it to the surface.

This was originally published at The Elizabethian

AuthorLiz Zharovsky