By Noah Britton
It’s taken a pandemic and months of forced introspection to write this, but I don’t feel the same need to be impressive.
I graduated from Georgia State via my parent’s couch, an hour away from the city and the people that had shaped me over the past four years. My cap and gown hadn’t arrived in the mail, but the shift of an imaginary tassel marked a transition from the comfort of college to the unpredictable search for autonomy in a pandemic.
Throughout senior year, friends and peers would confess to me that they struggled after graduation. Their warnings came like an admission of defeat, as if they had failed to live up to the allure of a bachelor’s degree. I braced myself for the shock of post-grad life, but I gripped to success in school as if that would translate to a steady career.
When the endless applications and cover letters yielded no results, it felt like a personal failure. I was stripped of the formulaic success granted by an education system that rewards standardized learning and eager-to-please students. Graduation meant coming to terms with my identity outside of this padded structure, but that realization has been intensified by the instability of the past few months.
In addition to a tanking economy and widespread unemployment, this year has underscored the sacredness of life. Tens of thousands of people have died from the coronavirus, and each week seems to mark the brutal murder of another Black American.
How do we constructively spend our time here? Who are we outside of an economic system that oppresses people of color and no longer serves the masses? Where do we go from here, now that we have the chance to rebuild?
Someone recently told me to pursue values over an institution or a title, and that mindset has drastically transformed my approach to work.
I don’t feel the same pressure to secure a dream job right out of college, all for the sake of impressing strangers on LinkedIn. I’m no longer limiting myself to a defined path but following my curiosity and passions. I’m holding potential workplaces to a higher standard of accountability and revising my goals when those values don’t match (@ Condé Nast pay your employees).
But, most importantly, my personal value no longer feels attached to a certain job or level of productivity.
This transition has taught me to rely on things that remain consistent, like the friends who call every day to check in, or the way good storytelling can move me. I’m focusing more to the things that excite me rather than the things that create demands.
I feel more excited than ever to learn and grow, and I finally feel less pressure to adapt that experience to some checklist.