There was a young woman I met in college who graduated two and a half years before me. Every now and then, she’d come visit a mutual friend on campus while I was still in school and we’d have the opportunity to catch up a bit.
I remember the first time she returned to campus in the spring following her graduation the previous fall; I was excited to hear where she had landed her first “real” job, since she had majored in psychology like me. She said she was working part time at either a library or a daycare, I don’t remember which exactly, but I remember feeling a little disappointed. I was expecting her to say she was applying to grad schools, or had found full time work at a counseling center, a nonprofit organization, an adoption agency, or a substance abuse clinic—something that fit the expectations I and probably a lot of other people had of someone like her graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Instead she was working part time at a job almost anyone could do without the four years of education she had invested her time and resources into.
A year or so later, she came back to campus and we got to talking again. Surely now, I thought, she had found something more long-term, something steady and related to her degree. Again, my assumptions were wrong. She had found a new job working at a campground as a member on the cleaning team.
I’d like to say my only thoughts were those of happiness and enthusiasm for her. In my mind though, I was thinking, “Girl, come on! When are you going to get a real job? When are you going to grow up and move onto bigger and better work, like college grads are supposed to?”
I haven’t thought about this young woman since I saw her last spring, a month before my graduation. The last time we talked, she still worked at the campground and had been promoted to cleaning team manager. She crossed my mind today as I found myself combating the same criticizing thoughts I once said about her: Come on, Sara, grow up! When are you going to get a real job? I realized then that my post-college story, so far, has not turned out all that different from hers. I’m working part time at a job anyone with a high school diploma is qualified to do, and have next to no interest in finding a job where I can start establishing my “career.” Needless to say, I grew a bit in humility and compassion today!
Truthfully, my post-college story hasn’t been at all like I imagined it would be. I look back at my conversations with this young woman and feel regret for the way I judged her when I had absolutely no right to. I’m learning just because someone’s story doesn’t fit a typical mold doesn’t mean it’s bad, wrong, or inferior to others’. Just as major depressive disorder was thrown unexpectedly into my post-college storyline (among other things), I have no idea what specific details and plot twists have brought that young woman to where she is in her story. Neither do I know what’s brought you to where you are in yours. But I do know I want to rejoice with her and with you in wherever you’ve been, wherever you are, and wherever you’re journeying to next.
I pray I become a person who embraces the stories of people’s lives rather than compares, scrutinizes, or judges them in light of what I think they should or shouldn’t be. I think the world needs more individuals who will toss their expectations aside and learn to celebrate individual uniqueness.