For many people, college years are some of the best of their life.
You’re finally independent, studying things you’re genuinely interested in and building new relationships with people you would’ve never met in your hometown.
Towards the end of my senior year I thought I was more than ready to graduate. I wanted to start my career as a high school teacher, find an apartment, and build my life.
However, sometimes the “real world” for a recent graduate is a lot more difficult to handle.
Instead of applying for a few teaching jobs, interviewing, and being offered a job over the summer after graduation, I applied to over 100 teaching jobs and had not one interview. Almost every day I spent hours filling out applications and not once did I hear anything back. A lot of schools wanted someone with more than just student teaching experience, but how was I ever supposed to get more experience if no one would hire me?
On top of not being able to find a teaching job, I was back to living at home with my parents. I went from four years of not having to answer to anyone to daily “Where are you?” and “When are you coming home?” texts from my mom.
Going on Facebook I would see friends from college who found their dream job working for a magazine or moving across the country to pursue their dream of fashion design. Here I was, stuck in Hamburg, PA, with a degree I thought was useless, living with my overbearing parents and working a minimum wage job at a nursing home.
I felt defeated. Why did I ever wish for my time in college to be over? If only I could go back to my easy-living college days.
To cope with the all the things I felt were going wrong in my life I began to drink. A lot. At first I would tell myself that “I’m only 22 and this is normal for my age.” However, things started spinning out of control. Casual drinks with a friend wasn’t enough. I wanted to forget that I felt like a failure and that I spent all that time, money, and energy on a future I couldn’t obtain.
I’m not sure when exactly I hit “rock bottom.” Maybe I was tired of getting kicked out of bars, waking up to “Are you okay?” texts, or disappointing my parents. Whatever it was, one day I decided that this wasn’t how I wanted to live my life. I wanted to educate children and here I was acting like a child. The only person I could blame was myself for giving up on something I worked hard for.
I quit my dead-end job at the nursing home and applied for jobs everywhere and anywhere. Within a couple weeks I was hired at a new restaurant that was opening in a neighboring town. It wasn’t my dream teaching job, but it was a step up from what I had been doing up until that point. I also sent out applications to be put on the daily substitute list for schools all over the county. By the beginning of Fall after graduation I was making great money as a waitress at night and able to get my foot in the door at a lot of school districts by substituting on a daily basis. Most importantly, I was happy.
Almost a year and a half later and I am now a long-term substitute teacher at one of the schools where I began subbing. Coincidentally it is also my high school alma mater. I love my job. I love coming in and interacting with students everyday. I love sharing my passion for English with them.
The months after college graduation can be trying. Often, things don’t just fall into place right away. My transition from college to where I am today was one of the hardest times of my life. This experience helped me to learn that it’s up to me to be happy with my life. Now if I’m unhappy with something, I work to try to change it.
Not everything will fall into place for you but you can work hard, not give up, and choose to be happy every day.
Lainie Reinhart is a high school English teacher in a tiny Pennsylvania town, where she also graduated high school. She loves to spend her free time outdoors hiking, traveling, and helping coach her high school boys tennis team. She recently become interested in writing for websites and blogs to keep her writing skills keen and show students that even as their teacher, she writes as often as possible.