Ask most fresh-faced, rising college grads about their post-academic plans on any given day, and you’ll likely receive anything from a withering glare to a slap-outta-nowhere. Rhyme intended.
Yep, it’s no secret that college doesn’t always prepare young adults to get a job, or you know, what the hell they should do once that tassel swings to the other side of the hat. It can be pure mayhem, guesswork, or tragedy, depending on how good your career services department was.
Full disclosure? I came to my senior year of college with a cloud of anxiety that followed me around, like a grown-up, human Eeyore.
Anyhow. As I trudged through the ragin' party that is a year of thesis writing, I started examining my options. I didn’t know much, but I did know one thing for sure: I wanted to impact the world somehow. Directly. Not as much behind-the-screen time and more people time, please.
The answer landed in my lap(top), with something I never expected: a service year.
If you’re keeping tabs on national service news, things might sound pretty scary as of late. While 2017 appears to be safe in terms of secured funding for most CNCS programs (except for the Social Innovation Fund), the newest budget proposal for FY18 doesn’t look so stellar.
The proposal supports the shutdown of the Corporation for National and Community Service over the next year.
*Cue the scary movie music*
Seriously though, things are getting real: we’ve got to get moving and get shi––um––stuff done.
Luckily, as current and former service members, and those who care about service, that’s kiiiind of our jam.
To help you get started, I compiled a little rundown checklist of things you can do to get involved with the #SaveService movement. Start at the top, start at the middle, start with your own creative idea, I don’t care.
What matters is that you start.
“Am I doing this right?” – When I was 3, feebly forming my letters for the first time.
“Am I doing this right?” – When I was 15, on my 3,000th attempt to parallel park my car without running over a cone.
“Am I doing this right?” – When I was 21, graduating with a college degree that left me feeling simultaneously accomplished and unprepared.
When I’ve failed,when I’ve gotten lost, when I’ve fallen in love, when I’ve moved away, when I’ve felt so lonely, when I’ve learned new things, when I’ve tried to make my family proud, when I’ve let down or let go of those I care about… I’ve been asking this question my entire life.
These days I wonder, "Am I adulting right?"
Always looking to my parents, my peers, my professors and my friends for reassurance. Always thinking that somehow, someone else could confirm, with authority, that yes, Gina, yes… you’re doing it right.
Eventually, I learned that there's only one person who could answer that question: me.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have an intellectual crush on Carol Dweck… ’s growth mindset paradigm.
When I first heard her impassioned talk on how early on, children are paralyzed by the need to be right (and be right on the first try), I saw identified aspects of myself, both younger and present day.
Somehow we’ve fooled ourselves into believing we’ve always got to succeed to matter.
We’ve got to succeed to be worth something.
We’ve got to succeed to be valuable.
We’ve got to succeed to be smart.
Damn, that’s a lot of pressure. And it doesn’t go away when we leave school.
In fact, it keeps coming through many stages of life. Especially if you’re the kind of person who comes from a service background, and aspires to achieve goals as amorphous as “make the world a better place”, “make a difference/impact”, and “be the change”.
You may, in fact, realize that your whole life plan has to do with disrupting, transforming, debunking, and otherwise breaking the rules in the name of something much bigger. Man, talk about something that makes your doubt yourself.
You know you’ll have to forge a path that looks different from a lot of other people’s... but that’s much easier to daydream about than do, especially when society's pressures continue to weigh on you.
How do you find the courage and self-assurance you need when you’re not following the path everyone else is taking?
We’ve got a few ideas.
Up until recently, I've had an incredibly erroneous belief about life and time: that eventually things would calm down, and I’d have all the hours I needed to dedicate to my passions.
While in high school I rushed from the final bell to my part-time job to late night studying sessions, I wondered if things would be less hectic in college.
At the university, I juggled massive course loads, extra curricular activities, a job, and “extra curricular activities”. Surely things will calm down once I am out of school, I thought.
Then came post-academic existence, spending my full-time hours serving with AmeriCorps, while nannying on the side for extra money, and managing a social life.
So it went. So it went.
Spoiler alert –– things never got less hectic. Things never slowed down. Life never felt “less crazy”. A perfect time never presented itself for me to dedicate my time towards chasing the dreams that swirled through my mind daily.
Eventually, I realized: life’s limitations weren’t going to change, so I had to.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.