“That First Year Out of College”
A while ago, my best friend, who graduated from college a year after me, sent me a recording of a voicemail I’d left her on her commencement day. It begins pretty silly, “who’s a big college graduate today?!” and then takes a turn. I relistened to it this morning and have transcribed pieces of it here. As I was listening, I was struck by the number of pauses—something that anyone who has ever received a voicemail from me knows is rare.
Okay but in all seriousness, so I got like that Time Hop thing on Facebook that was like ‘one year ago today’ … so I knew that like one year ago today was like my last day as a college student.
I go on to ramble about how my first year out of college, at age 21—where I spent two weeks in Europe and then moved to New York City on a whim—was one of the best years of my life and how I’m excited for my friend to have that experience. Then it jumps again.
Cause it’s really unlike anything else… You have nothing to be anywhere for. You have no one to hold you accountable for anything… Like you don’t have anything… Like there was one point when I was here in January and I was like ‘I’m gonna buy that car that’s for sale on the street and I’m just gonna drive somewhere else…’ cause like you can just do that you know?
Today marks seven years since I landed at JFK airport with no job, no plan, and no professional work clothes. (Taking away the two years I wasn’t here, five years in Manhattan still feels like a special milestone.) Of course, I never bought that car on Cathedral Parkway, but I remember it and that moment. I never had any intention of buying the snow covered thing but I remember feeling like it was a possibility. I remember being 21 and in New York City and suddenly feeling like there were so many possibilities.
It’s funny to hear me ramble to my friend about it being one of the best years of my ~two decades. Because I also remember the first apartment—heavy on the mice and bugs; low on the kitchen access and WiFi. I remember the uncertainties of work and the messiness of roommate situations and the loneliness of at times feeling like I was without a community.
But I also remember saying yes to everything. I remember whole days spent in the library and making friends in the park. I remember jobs I wasn’t qualified for and mentors who helped me grow. I remember being entranced by everything and on the one year anniversary of moving there, I remember going to the Museum of the City of New York and being overcome by gratitude.
When I first wanted to write about this, I wanted to talk about how it’s kind when our brains focus on and remember the cheery memories, rather than the very real, very despairing moments of what am I even doing here? But then I thought about something else.
There was a lot of instability in that first year. A lot of big change. A lot of uncertainty. And it was still okay. It could have been called growing pains, certainly. But I saw it as an adventure.
So perhaps, as I sit on the edge of another year where the necessary growing pains are starting to shift into discomfort, I need not think of it as an upheaval, but rather an opportunity, an adventure, a privilege.
I love the girl in that voicemail. The way she bounces from goofy to sincere to reflective to chaotic in a span of 45 seconds. I love the innocence and the joy and the way she unapologetically leans into possibility. I love the way there’s a confidence of belief—of course she’ll figure it out… of course it’ll be okay. Because it will. And because I know that some day, maybe seven more years from now, she’ll look back at this version, and she’ll be really proud of exactly where she was.