Career

What I Learned from My December Slump

What I Learned from My December Slurp | Writing Between Pauses

I didn’t mean to just stop blogging for most of December. I just sort of… found myself forgetting. Part of this was intentional—I wanted to spend less of December rushing around, trying to get a million things done and more time with Forrest, with Danny, with the important people in my life. And part of this was unintentional—I helped plan a wedding, attended that wedding, made more Christmas cookies than I probably should have, and in the evenings, I was so tired that it never even occurred to me that I needed to be writing those Blogmas blog posts I had planned in approximately June.

Part of why I fell behind was that I didn’t do enough forward planning.

And another part of why I fell behind, and stopped blogging, and struggled to restart was that I was just plain burnt out.

The first week I missed, I told myself that I’d work on it and I’d get my blog posts written over the weekend. I was just busy, I thought. That’s it! Nothing big!

But by the 2nd week of one measly blog post, I knew it: I was burnt out. I needed to take a break or I was at risk of just breaking myself.

I decided to keep doing just the bare minimum. I know that sounds awful. We are trained to believe that the “bare minimum” is the worst thing you can do aside from just quit, but I knew I was at risk of not just not being able to blog for myself, but for my day-to-day work. You know, the stuff that pays my bills.

A big part of me felt incredibly guilty and bad for the fact that I wasn’t blogging, wasn’t really doing much on social media, and definitely was just trying to get by. I had brands I was talking to, content I needed to create… but I was tired. It was the holidays. And sometimes, I know I do things when I don’t want to at a detriment to myself. So a very small part of me said: this is ok, you need this.

And I did. On January 1, I felt better than I had in months. I didn’t feel the pressure to be constantly writing, constantly working on something. But another part of me still held that guilt. I haven’t been posting on Instagram like I know I should. I haven’t been returning emails as promptly as I usually do and that’s what made me start to feel really guilty.

I had been burnt out and I was teetering on the edge of too much, absolutely too much. Giving myself a break was what I knew I needed to do—but there was still that niggling little voice that told me I was just being lazy. I think this is something that everyone my age struggles with; we’ve been told to work hard, constantly, our entire lives. And we also rely on our 24/7 gigs to get by (or at least I know I do). It makes us unable to do certain small things (like the fact that I’ve been meaning to mail a package for exactly 3 weeks) and it’s honestly just really bad for our mental health.

So, I had a slump. It happens. I took a break. I feel better. But what did I learn?

1. It’s Not That Urgent

I have about 5 emails in my inbox right now that the sender has marked urgent. That’s what it says in all caps in the subject line: URGENT, Brand Collab. Or URGENT, Want to do a giveaway?

And, bless you brands, and your brilliant PR teams, but those things aren’t urgent.

I often struggle with others perceptions of me. I don’t want to be appear lazy or like “one of those” influencers or bloggers. I want to appear capable, down-to-earth, responsible, and dedicated. I reply to emails within 2 days, always (that’s my rule). But sometimes even my two-days-and-I-swear-I’ll-get-back-to-you, I’ll get emails after 24 hours with, “is everything ok? I’m concerned.”

I understand that for many people their jobs are putting them under pressure to get a response. It happens at my day job, it happens in my gigs, and it definitely happens for this blog. But as a society, we really need to put our foot down. Sometimes, when I email a brand back, they won’t reply for a week. For 2 weeks. Then they expect a 3-day turnaround for content. I just don’t have the time! Everything I do revolves around a calendar and right now, that calendar is full. My 30 minutes of email time is all I’ve got.

I’ve realized a lot of this means I need to put up boundaries. In initial emails to brands, I need to tell them about my 2-day rule: If I haven’t replied in at least 3 days, send me a follow up. But don’t badger me. And please, it’s not urgent, we’re not performing surgery here or changing the world. All the reliance on the word urgent, when it’s not, just makes me anxious.

2. It’s Ok, You’ll Survive

About 18 months ago, my husband asked me why my blog was so important to me.

And my answer was: who am I without a blog?

I’ve always been the girl with the blog. I’ve always been that girl.

I don’t believe in being an artist without creating. And a lot of influencers, bless them, are artists without creating. Without naming names, there has been an influencer in the news, after being profiled on a Twitter thread, who is one just like that: she talks about giving creativity workshops, about creating art, but she doesn’t seem to actually create an art. She doesn’t publish, she doesn’t blog, she doesn’t even post on Instagram anymore. I feel bad for the callout, because who isn’t a bit of a poser at 22, but good gravy.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. And a big part of me believes that if I were to stop blogging, I would lose my last tenuous connection to writing. I know this isn’t true. I know that I write more in my dayjob than most people do in their lifetimes, but it’s an unshakeable notion. I need to be writing, I tell myself, so I can at least convince myself that I’m creating.

But that ignores all the ways I do write. During my slump, during my break, I wrote a lot. I journaled, and wrote a few poems, and wrote a few short stories. I had ideas. And I’ve realized that sometimes blogging, as much as I love it, eats up the time I could spend reading, writing things that light my brain up, and being creative. It’s a hard balance to maintain: writing for work, writing for my blog that I love, and writing the stories I want to read. I don’t really know how to combine them quite yet, but I realize this now: It’s ok, I can survive without this if I have to.

3. I Don’t Know What To Do With Empty Time

This is perhaps my starkest lesson. After the holidays, when I cleaned up our house, took down the tree, and spent several frantic hours cleaning, I realized that, once I’m done, I don’t know what to do. What do people do with free time? Even in my downtime, when dinner is over and Forrest is playing and I don’t have any cleaning or work to do, I find myself getting antsy. I have to be doing something. I struggle to watch TV shows. Sometimes, I even struggle to sit still to read. I like being productive. I like moving. I like producing things. While many assure me there are worse ways to be, I realize I need to work on the fact that I always feel like time needs to be filled. That I have to go somewhere or do something. It’s ok to just sit and look out the window. It’s ok to play on my phone. It’s ok. It’s all ok.

5 Tips to Make Working from Home Easier

working from home with toddler

It's easy to think that working from home will be, well, easy. You're in the comfort of your own home. You can stay in your pajamas. You can eat a real breakfast, drink as much coffee as you want, lounge in bed as you look at spreadsheets. 

Reality sets in promptly the first time you try to work from home. At least for me. The moment I started working from home a lot (when I was pregnant with Forrest, primarily), it's like everything in my house became way more... distracting. I worked from home an average of 2 or 3 days a week when I was pregnant, thanks in part to exhaustion, preeclampsia, and morning sickness. There were days where it felt like I could not focus and, of course, days where I got everything I needed done completed so I could wallow in bed and try not to throw up again. 

I don't work from home anymore. Why? Well, working from home with a toddler is near impossible. (If you somehow achieve this, I need your secrets.) I do work from home if Forrest is at my mom's or daycare, like when I was sick in March. 

If you're thinking of starting to take some work from home days, these tips are for you. 

1. Have a "I'm working" spot. 

And I don't mean the desk where you normally charge your computer. I've always been a person who has a desk where I spend most of my evenings, but I know this is becoming less and less common. However, when I'm working from home, I clear another space in my house--usually the kitchen table--to be my "office." Having a clearly designated space, as if I was actually in my work office, helps me to stay focused. 

2. Use the same background noise that you use at work. 

If you listen to music, or podcasts, at work, do that at home too. When I first started working from home, I tried to use my "at home" background noise--the TV--and found it way too distracting. If I listen to music or a podcast, it's like my brain assumes I really am at work and I stay more focused. 

3. Use that familiar study tip: take 10 minute breaks every 30 minutes. 

Honestly, I do this at work (in the office) too. Every 30 minutes, stand up, stretch, walk around for 10 minutes. Then get back to work. Your brain will feel remarkably refreshed and you'll be better able to focus. 

4. If you can, turn off the Wifi. 

If you have the kind of job where you don't need a 24/7 connection to the internet, turn off your Wifi when you're really getting into a task. I often do this when I'm trying to write and getting distracted by Twitter notifications and everything the internet has to offer. 

5. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. 

Hey, if you try to work from home (to reduce commute costs or because you're sick), and it's just not working--hey, that's ok. It's not for everybody! Don't try to keep forcing it if you are aware that you aren't getting everything done or achieving the goals you want. It's possible that getting out of the house might help--working from a coffee shop or bookstore might work better for you. Or, maybe you're just an office kind of person. 

The Hardest Part of Being in Content Marketing

I think by this point, anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty high strung: I'm neurotic and I pretty much worry 24/7. It's not super pleasant, but it's who I am. 

I often tell Danny that I worry I don't work hard enough, that I don't write enough, that I'm just not doing enough. 

This is a weird combination of worrying that I'm being seen as lazy when I relax and imposter syndrome, which is when you're constantly waiting for the people around you to realize you are a fraud. 

Again, not super pleasant, but incredibly common. 

When it comes to content marketing, I spend most of my days writing: social media, email campaigns, blogs. You name it, I'm writing it. When I'm not at work, I'm at home, thinking of blogs to write for my personal blog, thinking of social media to post. By my own counts, I'm creating about 85% of my day. 

And yet, sometimes, at the end of the day, I'll say to Danny, "I wish I had more time to write." 

Every time I say this, he looks at me like I am crazy. And really, I am. He always says that my writing output is prolific; of everyone he knows, he says, I write the most, period. But I don't believe it.

When I add up the words in my head, it feels disjointed. Something seems off about it. 

I had a talk with myself about this the other day, especially as NaNoWriMo approaches. I wonder if I'll be able to write 50,000 words in a month alongside all the other writing I do. Will I have time? 

I want to write more, but at the same time, I realize that I write so much during the day. I crank out content at a near constant rate. 

My boss often says that in a work capacity, especially in creative positions, you're output level is about 80%: you can work 30-32 hours a week pretty successfully, but those last 8 hours of work... are rough. Human beings are not designed to be creating 100% of the time, especially at professional levels. It's just not possible. Our brains get tired. 

But sometimes, that's what I expect from myself. "Why can't I write an emailer campaign, two blogs, two weeks worth of social media, and a short story all in one day!?" I don't think I literally think that, but sometimes, when I'm beating myself up for not spending more time writing in the evening, I can't help but wonder if that's how I think. 

For me this is the hardest part of working in content marketing: the creative drain it puts on me. 

I put all my creative energy into content creation, 65% of which benefits my job (not my personal brand). The rest of the time, I'm creating for my blog--which leaves very little time to create for myself. That includes journaling, scrapbooking, and fiction writing. 

It's exhausting. And it's hard. 

It's hard to be a creative in content marketing. Sometimes, it feels like a void that is just pulling me in and giving me very little in return for all the creative energy it uses. 

But realistically, it's up to me to draw the line. I can push myself: I can scramble to fill up the rest of my day with creative writing, alongside everything else I do; or I can take a break from something. 

What I decide to do will ultimately only be benefit: I can either work on my anxiety and my creative spirit; or I can more fully take on my career in content marketing. It's a draw, at this point. 

I Have It All (& Sometimes It Sucks)

A lot has been said about women and "having it all." A lot has been said about the pressure to achieve having it all and the stress that comes with that. A lot has been said about resisting the urge to "have it all." 

The truth is, having it all means one thing and one thing only: having your cake and eating it too. 

It's really, at its heart, a lame, boring concept. Yaaaawn. 

The truth is, I have it all in a certain sense: 3 days a week, I work a job I love, where I am respected, where I am trusted to handle decisions; 2 days a week, I'm a full-time mom, wearing yoga pants, pushing a stroller, going to Target. I'm married with one baby and one career that I don't plan to give up. 

I "have it all." 

And sometimes, it really sucks. 


Being a working mom is one of the most challenging things I've ever done. My three months of maternity leave were, also, one of the most challenging times of my life. For a while, I wondered if I was suited for either: what if I just wasn't cut out for motherhood or working full-time? What if, when faced with these options and my aptitude, the answer was, "Just kidding, you're bad at everything"? 

As things got easier, I fell into a good pattern. But the truth is, I'm still stressed out all the time. I have it all. I have the cute baby and the side blog and the nice husband and the good job. I have it all!

I also have a slew of anxiety problems, including a near constant worry about developing diabetes (I can't explain that one), panic attacks, and extremely disordered eating behaviors. I handle my own life exceptionally well for being so highly strung. It's almost a miracle. 

Sometimes, it does suck to never be able to sleep in, to have a hard day at work and come home to a teething, crying baby who just wants to cuddle or throw books or scream at me. It sucks. It does! Why aren't we saying it more? 

Sometimes, being the mom, standing there with a screaming baby, dinner burning on the stove, the dog barking, the phone ringing, the computer beeping with messages from the work Slack channel I swore I would ignore when I got home... it sucks. It sucks

It's the thing I'm not supposed to say. I'm supposed to be grateful, right? I get to work and I get days home with my baby. I get to have my cake and eat it too. Shouldn't I be happy? 

You know how sometimes you can be so excited for something? I get this way when I've dieted all week and I promise myself a treat--say a cookie or a pastry. When I get to that cookie, that cupcake, that scone, I often find myself disappointed. It never tastes as good as the dream cookie. Sometimes, it tastes amazing. But sometimes, it just tastes bad. 

That's having it all. Sometimes, it just isn't good. Sometimes, it just sucks. It's ok. It doesn't mean it sucks 100% of the time! But sometimes, it would be nice to just be able to eat Cheerios on the couch for dinner, to watch TV mindlessly for a few hours, to not soak and wash sippy cups and baby bottles while I ignore my emails. 

But you know what? I wouldn't trade it--just know, it's not rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes, it's rainbows, sunshine, and a little poop emoji. 

Email Etiquette for Responsible Adults

Email stresses me out, as I’ve written before. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to say via email—and it’s really easy to say the wrong thing. Email can be written too seriously or too casually. And it’s very easy for email to slip through the cracks and—oops! It’s been 7 days and you didn’t reply to that super important email.

I spend a lot of time answering emails for both my work and personal life. I’ve found myself following a few rules over the last few years. Here they are—my simple email etiquette rules for responsible adults. 

1. Keep it Short

You get an email. You need to answer it. You have so much to say. You start typing—and keep typing… and keep typing… and keep typing. 

You’ve gone into overload. In your attempt to remain thorough, you’ve sent a novel in reply. And girl, ain’t nobody got time for a novel in their email!

This is my rule: I write 1 paragraph per email. That’s it! Some people set a 3 sentence maximum (and as a very, um, verbose person, I just can’t). I set my maximum at a paragraph of 5-8 sentences. That’s it: say what you need to say and sign off. If they need more details, they can ask you to clarify. 

2. Don’t reply in the heat of the moment. 

You’ve been working on an important project and you finally submit it, dust off your hands, and think—“ahh, a job well done.” And then, the email comes back. This needs changed, this needs fixed, this is all wrong, what were you thinking? 

You hit reply and start typing, in the heat of the moment, a reply that isn’t, well, very polite. You fire it off and immediately regret it. They’re the client; you’re not. Oops. 

If you get an email filled with criticism or rejection or just plain annoyance—let it rest. Flag it, put it in a folder, and return to it in 24 hours or however long you need to chill out. 

3. However, reply to anything important within 24 hours. 

Even if you’re mad about it, try to reply within 24 hours. That might be a full reply or it might be, “Just letting you know I saw this email, but I am swamped right now and will get to it Friday!” Just a note to let them know you’ll get back to them. 

It’s so easy to let mailboxes get stuffed full and to find yourself replying to email after 4 or 5 days of it languishing in your inbox. No matter how busy you are, think of that from the opposite side; say you sent an important email to someone you’re working with and they just didn’t reply for 5 days! You know how that feels? It feels crappy. 

4. Don’t reply-all to huge email chains. 

Please. Just don’t. 

Got an email etiquette tip you follow? Share with me on Twitter!
 

6 Tips for Surviving Internships

As you all remember, internships were my bread and butter for several months of my life after graduating college. At one point in time, I was working part-time at a grocery store deli and doing three (yes, three!) internships at once. It was exhausting. 

I learned a lot from doing internships and more than anything, I gained experience that made me seem invaluable to employers. With new graduates every year, there are a new league of unemployed and terrified graduates who have no idea what they are doing and no idea where to start. Hopefully, these tips can be a help to them. 

I'm certainly not an internship expert, but I do know a few things. These tips are for current students, new graduates, and anyone who is wanting to start a new career. 

1. Yes, you do need to do an internship or two. 

Or seven, in my case. In college, I did two substantial internships, but I was a rarity. A majority of the people I knew did one internship, or independent study, as they were considered the same thing. This, unfortunately, means there is a substantial portion of college students graduating with one three-month period of professional experience. That's... not great, guys. Do an internship; if you can, do two. If you really can, do more than two. Do as many as you can when you are in school and can afford it. An internship can be anything, really: writing articles on the side for a local publication, volunteering your services as a local animal shelter, or working the counter at a women's shelter. There are tons of internships out there that are not in offices. 

I realize this is hard for people who are paying for school, and housing, and everything else, entirely by themselves. You might feel you have to decide between part-time (or full-time) work or an internship: one benefits the now, one benefits the future. Which leads me to...

2. Do know that you'll have to make sacrifices. 

Something like 99% of internships are unpaid. And paid internships are basically like fighting a gladiator: the very, very lucky receive paid internships. That's not to say "don't apply for paid internships"; it's more of a "don't put all your eggs in one basket" life tip. 

If you need to work part-time, but you want to do internships to make sure you get a job after college (which, really, I hope that's why you're in college), know that you'll need to make sacrifices. This applies if you're a new graduate working a weird part-time job, as well. You'll basically be working over full-time, but only be paid for part of it. You'll be exhausted, but the experience is ultimately worth it.

One last note on this: I know this is an unfair and messed up system. But, here's the thing: it's easier to tear down a broken system from the inside. Once we're all the CEOs and leaders of the world, we can change this--and I'm 99% sure we will. For now, however, these are just the facts, as crappy as they are.  

3. Do know that you can use part-time job experience to impress employers. 

Do you worked through college, or the months after college, at a retail job, while doing internships? Don't tell potential employers you were just doing internships. Say the reality! "I was going to school full-time, working part-time at McDonald's, and then I did 3 internships in 6 months." Excuse me, but that's impressive. What did you learn working that hard? What did it make you realize? What skills did you gain (prioritizing, budgeting, time management)? These experiences can be used to your advantage. Don't be humble. Brag. 

4. Do know that you can consider blogging an internship or even a job.

I always include my blog on my resume. I always talked about what blogging and social media has taught me and how I could apply those skills to the job I was interviewing for. For this reason, keep your blog up: keep it professional and make it awesome. In short, make your hobby count for something and know how to talk about it, professionally, in interviews. 

5. Do know you can e-mail any business asking if they need interns. 

So, you can't find any local internship opportunities. What's stopping you from emailing local businesses to see what you can offer them? You're not asking for money. Ask if you can job shadow, or intern, for a week or two. Ask if you can at least meet them to talk. Mention why you're interested in interning for the company and what you hope to gain from it, and why only they can offer it. People love to feel special; make HR feel special when they receive that email. 

When I first graduated, I spent hours applying to jobs and emailing local businesses -- mostly PR and marketing firms, some publishing companies -- I wanted to work for. I heard back from some; I never heard back from others. But it was a way to introduce myself and set myself apart. If they do have job openings in the future, I can always slyly mention that I emailed them as a new graduate and how I'm still so excited to have the opportunity to work for them. Sneaky, huh? 

6. Don't think internships are magic job machines.

They're really not. I did seven internships after college and it still took me eight months to a get a job that didn't include orthopedic shoes. It took me another nearly two years until I got a job in my field. An internship is never going to magically get you a job; you'll still have to work for it, remain interesting, and interview well. And sometimes, the timing has to be just right.  

In short, when it comes down to it, internships are an important stepping stone for entering the real world; you can't ignore their importance, but they certainly aren't magic. Work hard, do your best, and no matter what, do things that will set you apart from the crowd, whether it's starting your own freelance business or managing an amazing blog.

5 Tips for New Job Hunters

I wrote this post several years ago and recently decided it was time for a revamp. 

The last 5 years have been a true blur of job applications: from constantly checking Craigslist, writing new resumes, and sending the perfect follow up emails, jobs and job hunting has filled up a lot of my time. After I started at my current job 2 years ago, I calmed down and don't apply for as many jobs anymore, but I'm still always on the hunt. 

It takes a lot of time, patience, and persistence to find jobs, write cover letters, adjust resumes, apply, follow up, interview, follow up again... on and on and on. People aren't kidding when they say it adds up to a full-time job, so if you’re already working or in school or just trying to keep your head above water, it can be exhausting to try to find a new job, find a job to begin with, or even just get your foot in the door. 

I’ve learned a lot since I graduated college and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from my experience job hunting. 

1. Carefully read through job descriptions.

And I mean, carefully. Job descriptions are notoriously difficult to write and often only include the easiest parts of the job or at least, the easiest to explain. If something doesn’t seem clear, make a note of it. When I originally wrote this post, I wrote: "If a job seems out of your league, pass." Well, I've changed my mind since then. 

I recently read a study that men are more likely to apply to jobs where they only have one or two qualifications out of the list--whereas women feel they need to tick every box. The fact is: you don't. A list of qualifications is ultimately a dream list. The employer is just saying their ideal candidate--who may not even exist. So if you feel like you can do the job, apply. 

2. Pay attention to the job description. 

If you schedule an interview, request a copy of the job description be emailed to you (especially if the company decided not to include their info in the job posting). Reference the job description throughout the interview.

I have sometimes showed up to interviews and been blindsided by a question that was not in the original ad, but was included in the official job description. You always want to make sure you’re being interviewed for the job you applied for. I have had the unfortunate experience of being interviewed for other jobs the company had listed and thought I had applied for. The results were embarrassing for everyone involved.

As well, as you’re interviewed, if the duties they talk about don’t match the job description or the responsibilities you applied for, ask about it. Without giving out too much information, I was once interviewed and hired for a position that ended up being completely different from the posted job description and what was suggested to me at the time of the interview and from what they told me when they offered the position. It was an extremely difficult situation and I wish I had said something before I had to quit. 

3. Use LinkedIn (wisely). 

Network! But not too aggressively. LinkedIn often includes some great job postings. It also makes it very easy to send the HR or posting representative a message to ask any questions. If you have a lot of connections, you can easily see how connected you are to that business, which can be incredibly beneficial. 

That being said, don’t get too aggressive with your LinkedIn connections. Asking every other person to connect with you can come off really badly. There will be times where established professionals might not want to connect with you, in the fear that you just want to mine their connections. Be polite and respectful, as always. 

Also: Use your friends (politely... and wisely).

Never be afraid to ask your friends if they know of anyone who is hiring. What’s the harm? 

That being said, working with your friends can often backfire. If the job interview goes sour, or you are hired and it turns out to be a nightmare job, you risk ruining a friendship. Be careful with how you use your friends connections. When in doubt, use your own connections. 

4. Make a list.

When I was in college, I spent what felt like an entire day on LinkedIn and Twitter researching local businesses. I ended up writing a list of about fifteen businesses that I wanted to work at. They ranged from technology firms to magazines. The common element was that: they hired writers; and they were, at their core, creative businesses. 

Fast forward a few years and I've kept my eyes on those businesses ever since. I've religiously applied to almost every job opening they've posted.  I've emailed them, arranged meetings with them (they led no where, but at least they knew who I was)! I've interacted with them on social media. I've interviewed for a few of them and then promptly scratched them off my "dream job" list. One of those businesses is my current job. Seriously. 

My point is: pick a few businesses. Ones that you really connect with and feel like you would fit in at. Then go for it. Dedicate yourself to gaining the skills necessary to work there, or watch their websites or social media for job openings. Become a part of the local community and keep your eyes and ears constantly alert! 

5. Always follow up. 

A polite email after an interview (within 12 hours is my rule) never hurts. Be sure to reference something from the interview. A good example: “I loved talking with you about [business]'s culture and expertise. I really feel like I would be a great fit.” 

As well, be sure to make a personal comment (although not too personal). If your interviewer mentioned something specific (an upcoming trip, a conference, etc.) be sure to reference that. If the interviewer mentioned they were getting over a cold, a polite “I hope you feel better soon!” is nice. These kind of references show that you paid attention to them throughout the interview.


Do you have any tips for job hunters? Anything you found particularly helpful?

10 Things I've Learned Since Graduating College

I originally wrote this post (and a follow up of "10 More Things I've Learned") for my old blogs, Locked Out and Ellipsis. I have continued to learn things since I graduated from college--can you believe it was 5 years ago? I feel like that's not possible, but it is. Danny and I have been dating for 5 years; we've been married for 2. Where did the time go? Here's my revised list of things I've learned since graduating college in 2011. 

It should be easy to be young, but it really never felt like that. I'm an anxious person and it's always been my greatest downfall. I spent so much time worrying through college and even after I graduated. I felt like I always had to follow the rules; I had do so specific things to succeed. But the truth is: life is way more complicated than that. Sometimes you follow all the rules and things just aren't going to go your way. My experience after graduation is shockingly typical, but I've learned a lot and I'm still learning every day. 

1. Nothing will go how you think it will... even if you get a job. A lot of people I knew who got jobs ended up quitting shortly afterward. That plan you've had for after graduation forever? Prepare for it to change. My plan was to get a job; go to grad school; or move to New York or Chicago to become a magazine editor, whichever was more reasonable at the time. Obviously, none of those things happened. After I graduated, I worked at a deli, a car dealership, and finally, a residential care facility before finally being hired as a copywriter. That was over 3 years after a graduated too. 

2. Not being able to find a job effects your self-esteem in ways you never thought possible. I had on my imaginary armor after I graduated; I really did think I was different. "I'm so talented," I told myself. "Clearly, I will get a job! I'm special!" I am not special. Getting a job these days really is legitimately about luck. Are you the most qualified person who applied? Most likely, no. There are tons of people applying for jobs now. And that kind of sucks. Getting a job doesn't necessarily mean you're the best candidate anymore, because there are literally 200-300 applications turned in for every single job opening. And there are tons of college students, just like you, who are super talented, hardworking, and awesome. And among you are older people with 20-30 years of experience who deserve a job just as much. It must really suck to be in HR is what I'm saying. These are all facts, but it doesn't stop it from being soul crushing to send out your resume 10+ times a day, go to two interviews, tops, and hear back from zero

3. You will feel crushed after being rejected, but it's better to get back on the horse (even if that horse sucks). You know those days when your best friend is mad at you, your boyfriend breaks up with you, you fail a test, your favorite dress rips, you break your phone AND your camera, and your car breaks down!? Imagine having one of those days every day when no one will hire you. It sucks. All you'll want to do is lie in bed and watch movies forever. The last thing you'll want to do is make follow up application calls or write more cover letters. It's soul sucking, but ultimately necessary for your survival. I had a professor tell me once that every time she received a rejection letter, she immediately sent the poem or resume or whatever to a new option. That same day. This is the best advice I ever received, even if it meant that sometimes I cried for 12 hours after receiving rejection emails a record-breaking 15 minutes after an interview.

4. All that free time can add up to something. When you're unemployed (funemployed?) you might end up renting a lot of movies, buying a lot of stuff online, and perfecting your party dance alone in your bedroom. (I know I did.) But you know what you should be doing? Building a portfolio. You might as well work when every day is your weekend, right? When you do get a job, you'll wonder why you didn't blog more, or learn karate, or take up painting, or read all those books on graphic design. So spend time perfecting your social media presence, starting a blog, building networking opportunities, or learning a new skill. 

5. No one stops liking you when you work a terrible job. Remember those five months I worked at a deli? Remember how it made me feel humiliated and stupid every day? If you get a weird part-time job to make a bit of extra money (and fill some of that time), you might feel like some kind of weird, out-of-place alien, but I promise, no one who loves you is judging you. Unless they are a real jerk, in which case, why would you care?

6. Paying bills is hard. This is still the number one fact about my life: paying bills is hard. Establishing a saving account is hard. The minute I started assessing all the things I am required to pay, I realized that I vastly underestimated how much I cost as a human being. Add in a house, a husband, and a baby, and things are even more expensive now. This doesn't even take into account fun, unnecessary things, like internet or a cell phone.

7. When it comes down to it, the trivial things don't matter. When my grandfather passed away, I realized how much time I had spent waffling away the time: watching Hulu mindlessly, lying on my bed staring at the ceiling. We only have so much time, so don't spend it making yourself miserable over the little things. The things that matter most in life aren't related to the economy. I'm not saying getting a job isn't important (it totally is), but spending time with your family and friends, doing something you love, is way more important than worrying about if you'll be able to afford a cell phone when your parents finally cut you off. Some people have to work to survive and that's a horrible, awful reality. If you have people who can support you when things get rough, you're in the minority--so suck it up, buttercup.  

8. You'll want a job so bad, and when you get one, you'll want all that free time back. I'm... not kidding. I wake up at 5am every day, start driving at 6:20am, and get home around 4pm, just in time to make dinner, feed myself and a baby, and then put said baby to bed. This does not a social life make. Go see your friends--I wish I had.

9. You will get a job... eventually. Sometimes, it seems really hopeless. You'll read these articles about how people under 25 have something like a 55% unemployment rate, and then over 50% of those employed are underemployed and barely making minimum wage. You'll start to wonder if it's hopeless. Maybe you should have gotten a degree in something else? Maybe you should, I don't know, apply for jobs in something else? But I promise you will get a job eventually. A real one. Okay, you might be a receptionist, or a data entry clerk. But it's better than slicing deli meat or making burgers, right? The truth is, there will be a moment where everything clicks and falls into place and the world will seem to make a spot just for you. That happened to me two years ago: one day, I got, like, 5 job offers in one day. How crazy is that? 

10. It's not you. It really is the economy. For a long time, I started to wonder if something was seriously wrong with me. Maybe I was flawed in some way and had never known it. All those people telling me I was talented or would make a good editor, or writer, or social media marketing assistant... maybe they were lying or just trying to be nice. All the interviews where the HR manager praised my achievements and told me I had tons of skills they liked to see at the company -- they were lying, clearly, because they didn't hire me.

I gave up more than once. I resigned myself to working minimum wage jobs for the rest of my life -- on my feet until 11pm at night -- never being able to afford a brand new car, or a house, or even a child. More than anything that made me super depressed and not very fun to be around. It took a lot of time, but eventually, I realized it wasn't me. I still have moments where my confidence hits the floor and a lot of it has to do with, well, what I went through. It's exhausting to know you're good and to be rejected over and over (and over and over) again; it's a hard feeling to shake. But you'll get through it. I promise. I'm in such a better place now: I got through all of that, and guess what? I can afford a house, and a new car, and a baby, and a husband who does his best to help. It's not easy, but I got there. Five years later, I got there.