I am an on-paper idealist, in the most literal sense.
Every new year I produce an interminable list of resolutions, all but forgotten within a few days. I was always the kid with piles of half-filled notebooks detailing my greatest aspirations.
Simply put, I’m a planner.
My college experience was no different. I had a written roadmap for each semester, down to the last unit of coursework. I arranged internships and personal projects, all leading up to a May 2020 graduation date.
Unlike most of my childhood master plans, however, this one seemed to be working. I completed each step, the boxes next to my dreams finally being checked off. There was just one box left after graduation: get a job in the media industry.
I’ve always fantasized about my first job. Probably a production assistant of some variation, I romanticize the endless coffee runs and chaotic days on set. My only hope is to get a foot in the door.
I’m sure you know what happened next.
I found out that I completed my degree in a Target breakroom. It was a quiet moment, far from the one I had envisioned for so many years. I allowed only a few happy tears to stain my cheeks before returning to work.
I picked up this seasonal position at Target a few weeks after school went virtual. I figured a short-term assignment would be perfect, as it would end by the time I secured my degree and subsequent dream job. But as the socially distant lines of people waiting outside grew longer, so did the time away from my desired industry.
During the past year in lockdown, I have worked for four companies, all retail and grocery. I have run around a warehouse gathering items for pickup orders, helped kids find their perfect Halloween costumes, folded and unfolded the same jeans and wrangled shopping carts on busy Sundays.
I have gained a variety of skills during this time; now more confident in public speaking and conflict resolution. I even formulated the perfect balance between politeness and firmness when telling people to pull their masks above the nose.
It really does no good below the nose, ma’am.
And do not get me started on those sequined monstrosities that are basically free-flowing air vents. But, I digress.
I have enjoyed most days at work over the past year. My coworkers have all been lovely and welcoming; bosses never too overbearing. However, I can’t shake this overwhelming feeling that I have lost a bit of myself.
Now I would like to recognize the sheer privilege that comes along with this statement. I have been lucky enough to maintain employment during a pandemic, and my family and I have remained healthy. My feelings do not stem from a place of ungratefulness, but instead frustration.
For the first time in my life, I do not have a plan.
I have felt devoid of creativity, ripped away from those with whom I used to collaborate. I, like most, was suddenly left alone with nothing to motivate me but sheer willpower. I am just now developing the level of self-discipline needed to push forward.
I have made it this far. A college degree, which seemed insurmountable just a few years ago.
It has taken time for me to realize that my dreams are not too big, but they have simply not gone to plan. Perhaps the greatest growth I have done during this pandemic lies in the fact that I am now OK with that. There once was a period when I would simply toss the entire blueprint to avoid failure, but not this time.
I will check off that last box.