Nothing I’ve experienced yet can match the exhilaration I felt while walking across the stage to accept my Bachelor’s Degree. My decision to forego my sight for beauty caused everything to be a blur, except for the red folder waiting for me at the other end. My back was straight, my face was beat for the cheap seats (yes, tickets were free, but I digress). My walk was steady but paced at a notch just under “too fast!” I was a hybrid of a model and soldier; I felt my curls bounce with every step. This was my moment and I was surely going to bask in it, even if it lasted all of 9 seconds. I walked up to the dean of my program and outstretched my right hand to shake his. My left hand patiently waited to accept my degree and an alumni pin (seriously felt like I was in a secret society). “Congratulations”, the Dean said.
And I was off.
It has been exactly a year since then and the thought of that day still brings a tear to my eye. The amount of: hard work, sleepless nights, positive self-talk (in reaction to negative self-talk), money spent, energy consumed, experience gained, missed opportunities, junk food, study sessions, mistakes, achievements and of course, education needed to get through my university years; were all worth it when I slipped on my cap and gown.
That time has since passed. I turned in my gown at the end of the ceremony and my degree. My graduation cap sit at a makeshift graduation shrine in my room. Clearly, this was major for me. But what now? I thought I’d be asking the question sooner; but with a fun-filled summer and the start of a new job, I don’t think my high permitted me to come down and ask this question.
But now four full seasons have passed and I wonder where the next high will come from. Will I land a job or position that allows me to practice theories and techniques I spent so much time learning? Will I attain a salary that matches what a “university graduate” deserves? Surely these feats would be a call for celebration. But what about the smaller accomplishments in my life? There won’t be any applause, champagne in fancy glasses, cameras from five family memories asking me to “look here, now over here!”
How will I know I am doing a good job without the celebration? Are my achievements really achievements without a graduation of sorts to mark the ending of a chapter? Even the concept of progress is now skewed for me… Without a pass or fail grade how will I know to move to the next level? How does one who’s found comfort in the institution of education mark success for themselves after they leave school?
I am still figuring it out.
Two solutions I am trying came from Lisa Nichols and a meme, seriously. According to many of Lisa Nichols’ videos on Youtube, we as people tend to focus too much on the “macro wins” in our lives. These our end goals. For example; buying a home, having a book published, saving a certain amount of money or getting a certain amount of clients to support your business, may all be what we will mark as the moment to celebrate, relax or just breathe a little bit. What Lisa Nichols advises though, is to have 10 “micro wins” that will lead to your “macro win”. These are considered benchmarks and they will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by all it takes to finally reach your macro win. She states that having these micro wins established will help to keep you on the right track and organized in terms of where to go next.
A meme I once read said, “celebrate the small victories”. And this automatically made me think of the common expression “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!”
This means if you’ve taken steps in the right direction, acknowledge your commitment to getting that task completed. Say you are looking to have your first novel published. Have you done research on publishing houses who have published books similar to yours? Cheers! Have you put your research down on paper? Cheers! Have you completed your first five chapters? Cheers! Now, this is not to say that you should totally slack off after hitting one milestone, but you should give yourself some credit for the work put in. Progress is a process and focusing on the finish line may sometimes have us feeling dismayed and as if we aren’t doing enough.
Have you experienced this? After graduating, or just in general? I’d love to hear some of the tools you use to mark your progress. Or let me now if you’ve tried the tools above and how they worked (or didn’t work) for you. I know success is sweet, but sometimes stopping to smell the roses on the way there, isn’t so bad either.
“Some of the best lessons that you learned came wrapped in sandpaper” -Lisa Nichols
If I had been full time instead of part time in school, I could have graduated about two years earlier. I would probably be living on my own right now, if I would have just educated myself on personal finance. Maybe I’d even have a car. And that guy… The one that made my heart flutter and inspired me to write again; I should have moved to his city. We’d probably be together- engaged even. What if I would’ve quit my old job earlier than I did? What if…
I could go on like that all day if you’d let me… Or if I did not have progress to make. Many people I know probably could too. They probably do. And I hope they are reading what I am about to write: Please stop doing that! Please stop regretting the leaps you did or did not take. Please stop feeling guilty for what you did, or said, or thought at one time or another. Please quit blaming yourself for where you are or are not in life. Take accountability yes, but please stop beating yourself up. Forgive, forgive, forgive yourself! I know it is easier said than done, but it is vital that you flip the switch on how you process your past, if you’d like to make accomplishments in the future.
The first reason is because you are human. As human beings we work with what we have and this often times determines our next step. We have to pay bills; so we stay at a job that’s not so rewarding but provides a steady paycheck. We keep a job with consistent pay so we can live; so we lighten our course load at school so we don’t burn out (and because school is not cheap). This is what we do. We find a way to make a way. And then we get through. Acknowledge the fact that at the time, that thing you did – whatever it was, was the right choice for you given what you had to work with. And this brings me to my next point.
The second reason you should stop dwelling on past “mistakes” is because you were not who you are right now. The mindset you have, your rationale and your wants and needs are not the same as they were 5 years ago, 6 months ago- or even yesterday in some cases. You are not the same. You have been through things since then, you have learned lessons from your actions, both good and bad. So now what seems like the worst mistake ever was once the best decision you could have made, but because now you’ve seen the outcome, your opinion has changed. Right now, you are like a defeated general looking over a map and pin pointing everywhere your soldiers should have went or every move they should have made, because the war is over. And like the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Now let me give you one more thing to look at.
You only know where you “went wrong” because you have since learned from your experiences. I can confidently say that at least 75% percent of your biggest regrets taught you one thing or another about life, money, love, family and last but not least, yourself. Take a few moments to think about some of your regrets. Now think about how you now maneuver in life because of the lessons you were taught. Some were hard lessons, I don’t doubt it. But hard lessons or not; it happened, you cannot change it, so why not make some lemonade?
Sitting in the past not only keeps you from prospering in your future, it makes you neglect your present. Who are you now? What good are you doing now? And why would you ever let yesterday, keep you from today? Or tomorrow? You are worth more than your mistakes. You are not the sum of your failures or accomplishments, but the sum of the lessons you learned from both.
When I was growing up, there were a few restrictions I always gave myself. “I will never work at a job with cubicles”, was one I would say often.
To be honest, I can’t really say how I made this decision at the ripe age of 8 years old. I don’t know whether it was the way I heard adults on TV relate cubicle jobs to failed dreams or if it brought back memories of watching the tragic characters on The Drew Carey Show before bed. Whatever it was, cubicle jobs were not for me. I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to get paid to play depressing roles that made adults feel better about their lives. I wanted to play the role of a powerful police woman like in NYPD Blue. I also wanted to play a beautiful princess, like Belle – so little girls could scoot closer and closer to the TV, to get a closer look at a woman they wanted to be – or be like, in the future. To put it plain, I wanted a dynamic, extraordinary life.
Nineteen years later, at the age of 27 (and a half), a recent Human Relations graduate – I write this blog post from a computer owned by my employer. With my ergonomically correct posture and head set to my ears listening to Maren Morris, I type away in none other than my very own… CUBICLE!! That’s right, the same thing I said I never wanted, is exactly what I got. If you study the Law of Attraction then you know that is usually the case… But that is for a different day. So yes, I now work in an environment that I always thought would make me unhappy. But I am not, and I will tell you why.
I currently work at the customer center of a very successful retail company. Being in this space alone I have the opportunity to get a look at how a business is ran. Through work experience I have come to learn some important information: why policies and procedures are so important to create and adhere to, how marketing and ease of use will enhance a customer’s experience, and one of my favorites which is learning how connecting on human level equals sales. In addition to this free knowledge I also get one thing that will help me, help myself and that is income.
I make money at my job that I can use to invest in myself. Whether it is a new laptop, a driver’s license, or just money for the materials needed to build my brand- I have means to financial capital. Yes, I spend about 8 hours of my time helping a company gain more success- but I go home and invest at minimum 2 hours in myself. I am able to see it this way because I walk with an attitude of gratitude (as my brother, Kaliph puts it), instead of regret or impatience. In my experience, I have never gotten to the next step without being present and grateful at the preceding one. Yes, it’s been said that big dreams should make you uncomfortable- but no one said they should make you hateful of your current state.
I am no expert but I can tell you the three ways gratitude has helped me tackle a plethora of accomplishments:
1) When my thoughts are positive, positivity accepts the invitation into my life.
⦁ Would you show up to an event you didn’t think you’d be welcomed at? Positivity works the same way.
⦁ Adversely, this is the same for negativity. If you think you are going to have a bad day, you will create it. Self-fulfilling prophecy is real.
2) Being present and grateful in the moment, helps me see things for what they really are. I am also able to analyze the situation in a healthy, rational way.
⦁ So you currently hate your current job. Ask: What good things does it offer (bonuses, benefits, connections), what experience has it taught you that you can use to apply to a new job, or become self-employed?
⦁ School is hard and keeping you from “real life” (I have been there). Ask: How long do you have left? Will what you are studying help you reach your goals? Are you studying at the right place? What are the pros and cons of leaving?
3) I can take action when I am in a grateful place.
⦁ Brooding on all the wrongs going on in my life only leaves me sitting in all my mess.
⦁ You ever hear someone say “I’m so mad, I can’t even think straight”? Yeah, that’s what happens. They can’t think straight, can’t get things done, or done right, at least.
I can’t tell you my way is the right way, but it has helped me thus far. I work in my cubicle yes; but I work calmly, efficiently and with a mind open to learning and intent on progressing. I also have a collection of Post-it notes motivating me to keep on going! It may be my current location, but I’d be doing myself a disservice to not recognize the tools it equips me with to propel to my next level, whatever that may be.