I crossed the threshold. I finished.
Like I said, it was the hardest thing I've ever done. But from this side of graduation, all of the headaches seem inconsequential. It's hard for me to remember the late night panic attacks and countless hours socked into case studies and papers. That I crossed 17,680 miles is unfathomable. I don't even know how much student loan debt I accrued.
After turning in that last assignment, I had an emotional twelve minutes of disbelief, followed by a surge of unemployed panic, my new constant state of being. I also have lost my gimmick. I'm no longer a co-ed. If someone were to ask, "What do you do?", my response now would be a charmless, "I'm looking for a job." It was fun to stir up admiration in strangers by explaining that I was a student, fitness instructor and single mother. Now...well, not so much.
I'm scared. And I feel incredibly powerless.
If I look back on my journey from pathetic not-yet-divorcee to now, the times when I've felt most strong were those moments when I [thought I] was in control of my destiny. When I got my cooking gig at Hope Care Center, I finally knew that I could create my new life. I knew money would be tight, but I was certain I could do it. When I later realized I wanted more and started my college career, I felt like the world would soon be my oyster. As challenging as those two years were, I felt like I was making something of myself. I thought I was demonstrating perseverance to my children. I was certain I was creating some fantastic new adventure for my family.
And now, two weeks after graduation, I'm wrought with fear and self-doubt. I'm looking at jobs and careers and see that I probably should have gotten a degree in business or accounting or engineering (wasn't gonna happen, but I'm doubting myself right now -- please play along). I see that I don't know the first thing about getting a grown-up job. Mark, Spinning Marcy and others are coaching me on the ways of networking and schmoozing and charming my way into a job. I've been warned that it doesn't happen overnight -- it takes years to build a career. WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE MAKE ME DO THIS WHEN I WAS 23???
Okay. Now that I've gotten that out...just to clarify (because I haven't blogged much in the last three months), I'm not pursuing my R.D. anymore -- at least not right now. I don't really want to go to grad school in the fall. I would like to begin a career that merges fitness and nutrition with my old happy-go-lucky self. Corporate wellness, more or less. I want to organize weight loss challenges, teach cooking classes, tell people what to eat, convince folks to run a 10K, all under the umbrella of an employee-minded organization that sees the value in caring for their associates' health.
So feel free to network me into a gig. I'd love to turn my back on the insecure version of Jennifer. She's way less fun than her foolishly optimistic counterpart.