6 Reflections for Graduates In Limbo

It’s graduation season and while some of you out there are heading out to your first day at your new job, some of us are tightening the drawstrings on our sweatpants to prepare for a day of job hunting on LinkedIn. It’s okay to be in that last group. If you’re having a pity party right now, stop right now and read my post “Living at Home Doesn’t Make You a Loser.” I’ve been in your shoes before and I want to share some of the reflections I have from that time of uncertainty.

CarefreeBlackgirl May 19, 2015, 3-08 AM

#1: Let Your Freak Flag Fly

There was a time when I tried to act normal and act like I was interested in the same things as everyone else. That didn’t last very long. The truth is that I love singing but I’m notoriously bad with lyrics, avocados make me gag and I am constantly shopping for the perfect planner (it has to have 30 minute increments and a spot for a to-do list). Don’t be afraid to like what you like. There are too many people trying to go with the flow and like what everyone else likes. Once you’re open about what you like, you’ll be surprised at the kind of people that gravitate towards you. I once had a 10 minute conversation with someone about the best pen for journal writing. This conversation included a hands-on demo of all the pens in her collection. As weird as it was that she had all those pens in her bag, it was a mutually enjoyable experience that would not have happened if I hadn’t mistakenly stolen her pen. Let’s all agree to free ourselves to be enthusiastic about life again!

Lesson 2: Failure Can Hurt but It Won’t Kill You

#2: Failure Can Hurt but It Won’t Kill You

I have heard “no” more times than I would like to admit. In fact, I heard it so many times that I became desensitized to it. I no longer heard it as a criticism of me as a person. Instead, I take “no” to mean “not now”, “not here”,”not like this”, and “not with them.” Getting over the fear of “no” is a challenge that I face head-on every day. Every time I cold-email a complete stranger that I admire from the industry, I hold my breath and send up a prayer before pressing send. It’s a ritual for me, but that little action helps me overcome my fear. I’ve found that the people on the other end, more times than not, actually reply back. Most of the time, they’re impressed someone had the guts randomly email them for advice. I’ve had some surprisingly pleasant interactions with random strangers. Just remember that they are humans and were once in your shoes, trying to find their place in the world.

Quick tip: Be brief and to the point (who you are and what you do). Make sure your email has an ask (what do you want from them).
Lesson #3: Hustle Outside of the Box

#3: Hustle Outside of the Box

If you want to know what you have a reputation for, take a peek at your LinkedIn endorsements. I have a few for “Public Speaking”, likely because of my TEDx talk and other speaking engagements but what kind of threw me off were the “Event Planning” endorsements. I noticed they were from people who had attended my Style Lottery closet swap events over the years. For some reason, I hadn’t thought of putting together swaps as event planning. But it was! Every year, I was planning 3-4 swaps with and for different groups in different cities and people were starting to take notice. Sometimes, people can see greatness in us and that is enough to plant a seed. About a year ago, I took my event planning hobby and turned it into my fashion startup called Style Lottery. Ever since, we’ve been teaching people to restyle, reuse, and reward with fashion. With a little creativity, your passions and talents can be transformed into a side-hustle.

Lesson #4: Become a True Learner

#4: Become a True Learner

When I first became interested in sustainability, I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on. I read up on the circular and sharing economy. I nerded out on statistics about the psychology behind the need to shop. I designed workshops about sustainable fashion. I subscribed to blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to minimalism and a more waste-conscious lifestyle. I researched natural substitutes for my every day products. In order to really know a subject, you have to become a true learner. Read books, attend talks, and link up with likeminded people who can teach you a thing or two. It’s important to never stop learning and seeking to know more.

Lesson #5: Know Thyself

#5: Know Thyself

I came to the realization that I am not the type of employee who can sit behind a desk from 9 to 5, staring at a computer. I am an idea person who thrives when I can bounce ideas off others. Just as it’s important to know what kind of job functions you enjoy and what kind of work environments you do your best work in. You should also be aware of your strengths and areas that need improvements.

Here’s an interesting thought about strengths and weaknesses: I was having a conversation with one of my “mentors-in-my-head” (borrowed this phrase from Chasity Cooper) and she said that we don’t always have to be so obsessed with working on our weaknesses. Our weaknesses may be a clue that we need someone on our team who excels in areas where we struggle. I think they’re a great reminder that we can’t do our best work in isolation.

Lesson #5: What is For You is For You

#6: What is For You is For You

My life has been an interesting ride, full of surprise turns and blessings in disguise. I’m not really the type to plan out every detail of my life very far out in advance. I have a vision for who I want to be and what I want to be known for but the road getting there is quite blurry to me. And you know what? I’m actually ok with that. In my experience, it’s been when I least expected it that God put up great roadblocks in my way and dropped amazing opportunities into my lap. When I look at where I am in my life now, I’m not exactly where I thought I would be but looking at the road that brought me here, I see God’s hand in every step I took.

I can’t look to my left or right and try to compare my life trajectories to anyone else’s. It wouldn’t be fair. I know that even now, the wheels are turning in my life, although I cannot see the outcomes just yet. In the meantime, I will continue chatting with awesome strangers on planes and having lunch dates with friends of friends who are doing exciting things. I’m enjoying hearing people’s life journeys. It’s refreshing to hear that none of them were exactly sure of where they’d end up when they started and no one’s career path was a straight shot. I’m not sure what God has in store for me, but I know He will continue on in the trend of surprising me beyond what I could ever dream. I don’t have to beg him for a job or plead with him for the success of my nonprofit. What is for me is for me. It will be mine as long as I have faith and work toward it. I pray the same peace and optimism for you in the period of waiting.

Pictures taken by Gesiye Komonibo, Washington, DC.
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