Grown-up Dress Up: A Year after Graduation
In university, I fantasized about working downtown. Adult Alexandria would dress nicely. Her black boots hit the pavement. Her steps followed a steady yet quick tempo because the successful and independent Alexandria Angco had a 9 AM meeting. Although she’s 3 minutes late, she emerges out of the elevator without breaking a sweat. Adult Alexandria was a reverie.
Much of this fantasy is real. The current Alexandria is decently dressed. She has black boots that hit Toronto’s pavement too. The tempo, however, was rushed and heavy. She’s 10 minutes late for work but her calves are cramping from the walking. This exercise happens again — this time to catch the train going home. She hops into the train, sinks into her seat, and takes a nap at the quiet zone.
This routine tired me out. With tiredness, the existential questions welcomed themselves into my world. If this is really what I’m meant to do, why does it suck? Will I live this mundane life forever? Shouldn’t I be happy?
For those who have read my blog post after my graduation, you may recall that I want to be a Medical Illustrator. The desire hasn’t changed and in fact, divine grace has blessed me with a job in my field. “Scientific Art Editor,” I said to my parents when I shared the news that I got hired. I had a huge smile on my face. I realized, “Wow this is actually happening!”
Regretfully, one month of repeating and adjusting into my commute and new job drained me. I had never commuted for so long. I had this nagging thought that it should be applying to grad school. I had to wake up at 6:15 AM. I get home at 7 PM. I was too tired to work on anything. But I’m in the field ,isn’t this good? I can apply next year. Then, it hit me. What if I never get into grad school? I’m stuck and I’ll never move forward. I’m going to fail as an adult.
I know being adult is hard but I thought it would be easier than this. I felt like this before — I was this miserable in school. I can’t even handle this simple work day, what is wrong with me?
Kid in a Suit
One Friday evening, I plopped into my seat. My hamster wheel of anxiety drained my mental and emotional energy. I then noticed a guy. He was dressed in a well fitted suit. He walked into the train, holding an Attaché briefcase in one hand. He was young, around my age perhaps. Maybe he works at financial district, I thought to myself. I imagined him strutting down Bay Street. Maybe he’s a genius Accounting student and now he’s working in one of the firms. He must be so happy.
He sat down, rolled up his sleeves, and opened his briefcase. What was inside? I peaked and awaited to see what treasures it held. A blue lunch bag. The type that could belong to someone in sixth grade. He reached in and took out a sandwich and a juice box. He took a bite and swallowed his sandwich. I pouted and spat out the image of who I thought he was. He dusted off the crumbs of his buttoned shirt and I dusted off what I envisioned him to be.
I thought he had it all together. His briefcase made it loud and clear. He looked like an adult on the outside yet inside, he was still… a kid. But I, too, was like him. I thought I was an adult. Instead, I was only playing dress up on weekdays, nine to five. I played dress up and played Adult Alexandria. Little did I know, this role I played had a heavy purse as part of the costume. A purse filled with anxiety, doubt, questions, and frustration.
I was frustrated that I wasn’t happy. At least, I was not as happy as I thought I would be. I thought that I would be living the dream and that I would love every minute. Instead here I was, hangry, judging my fellow 20 somethings, and growing wearisome of the monotonous life I chose. If I’m so miserable, maybe this isn’t meant for me? If this is meant for me, it would be easy. But I love my job. I ruminated on this idea every day and the wintry grey Toronto skies didn’t help.
Class of 75%
Now it’s June and my Facebook feed is saturated with photos of friends and family graduating. “Ah, that was a day when I was filled with hope and dreams,” my coworker joked after I announced that our Alma matter had begun their convocation ceremonies. “Hey, I still have some hopes and dreams,” I replied back, “75%”. I had never said this out loud before. It felt like I had already given up. Where did the 25% go?
Weak. Hopeless. A fraud. You’ll never survive as an adult, you can’t even take care of yourself. What kind of life is that? My hamster wheel of anxiety spun faster and faster. Naturally, I grew tired and gasped for air.
I’m sorry Class of 2017. Do I make the real world sound terrible? I have dipped my toe in an abyss that we all collectively thought about. Adulthood – some of us have yearned for while others ran away from it. Did I scare you?
Heck, I scared myself. I wanted to hide in my room. Hide under the sheets. Go off the grid. How can I achieve my dreams and grow old when I can’t even handle being 22? If I can’t take care of myself, how can I take care of another person? A kid? I thought I’d be happier. The hamster wheel continued to go in circles. It felt as if Usain Bolt ran in it.
But you know what I did? I got off the hamster wheel. I stepped off. Actually, I took a walk during my break and I filled my lungs with air. Air that shook me and reminded me of the beauty of where I am today. Another deep breath and I realized that I was on a stepping stone. A huge stepping stone that I prayed for. This isn’t just a stone, it’s a rock. This isn’t a rock that’s in my way, it’s something I’ll climb over. Another deep breath and thanked God and headed back to work.
Class of ‘16
It’s been a year since convocation. Last year, I had no idea what would I face but I knew where I wanted to go. It was scary and there are minutes in the morning when it really scares me. But I want you to know that during this time, I was able to do things I had never done before. I was able to meet so many people and share their stories. I became a Project Manager even though I had no idea what I was doing! I ate at restaurants I always wanted to try. I have more friends now than ever thanks to the people I’ve met at work. I went to four concerts in a span of six months when before I had never been to a concert (I got in Formation and let Beyoncé take my concert virginity). I got a job in my field! I see the CN Tower when I walk to work. I went to South Korea and Japan with my best friends. I traveled without my parents and saw things even they haven’t seen before. I rekindled my hobbies. I let go of people, things, and ideas that ruined me. But I also nurtured the relationships, traits, and goals that push me to a better person.
You might be scared of what happens after graduation. That’s OK. I still get scared myself. There are days when I still speed walk in the hamster wheel. This time, however, the hamster had a gentler coach. This coach was more of a cheerleader. The coach reminded the hamster to take breaks and enjoy the progress its made. That coach was me.
University/College was hard. But you pushed through and here you are. Don’t be so hard on you self, kid. Pack up that briefcase or whatever you’re planning to use. I know you got what it takes.