Katie Powers, a recent college grad and former editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, encounters the cruel, cruel world outside the campus bubble, and not only lives to write about it, but discovers something about herself: maybe success is all about acceptance of what is, coupled with the realization that no matter what goes down in the here and now, there’s always room to grow and change.
Just some Undecided Girl
by Katie Powers
Disclaimer: Readers, I cannot offer words of wisdom or quizzical insight like your two authors. Who am I? Just another one of those recently-graduated, undecided, twenty-two year olds, stung by, as Barbara so elegantly coined “a bitch-slap from the reality of recession.” But read on: I don’t think it ends with a slap.
I am the archetype of undecided. As the oldest daughter of good, open-minded Midwestern parents, I was taught I could do whatever I wanted to do in life. I just had to work hard and not give up. So I tried a lot of things — soccer, theater, Girl Scouts, politics, history, fiction — but I decided on journalism. That’s what I wanted.
And yet, that’s what I can’t seem to get.
I graduated at the top of my class, ready to face the world with that shiny “I can beat the Recession” drive for success, just like I had achieved in the classroom. Things suddenly became dark when I realized that the real world isn’t really like the classroom, and it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve struggled, agonized, over why I can’t make my dream of getting a job in journalism happen. Why was it that the one thing I had decided on rejected me? Just like that, I became undecided. In a world with boundless opportunities, what do you do when you realize the one thing you’ve been waiting for (say, a job at a newspaper or magazine), isn’t available? Or worse, it was — but you just didn’t get it?
With the unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent and still barely one quarter of recent college graduates finding jobs, it’s time for young women such as myself who’ve always dreamed so big to pause. It’s like what Mike Jagger sang, “You can’t always get what you want.” (My dad introduced me to this song early — It was perhaps a mature choice for my 8th grade graduation song, but has proved endlessly applicable.)
That’s the kicker. Maybe I can’t get what I want, but perhaps that’s only what I thought I wanted. Instead of feelings of guilt for betraying an entire industry by getting a job elsewhere, maybe I should feel more betrayed by the industry that is in self-destruction. Instead of feeling like I failed, why not call out other young journalists, like myself, and create our own spin on new journalism? The time for us is still to come.
As successful women, we measure ourselves by our achievements, but most often, what job we have or what award we are bestowed is not our choice. And ironically, these achievements only really matter to us. Our ambition, crafted by the 80s working woman and second-wave foundational feminists, has left us judging success defined by our broader, visible contributions to the workplace. But maybe it’s time to change that, especially, as AP just declared, “the workplace is never going to be the same.”
I related to Shannon’s recent post, Eat Crazy Sexy Pray: Seeking is the New Black, on how more women are seeking spiritual and directional guidance in their 20s. Personally, I’ve used a variety of meditative examinations: yoga, long walks, a little journaling. It’s helped me grapple with the answer to indecision, and it’s helped me realize that I can create success best by understanding and accepting my life and career as it is now, knowing there’s always room to grow and change.
So, at least for the time being, I’ve stopped being so undecided, and started becoming just a little more content. And that’s all we can really hope for.