November 22, 2016

My Post-Grad Experience: Abandoning The Safety Net Of Love

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Clem Onojeghuo
Clem Onojeghuo

For months, I’ve been struggling to write a blog post about what I’ve learned since I graduated from college (15 months ago—I still can’t believe it). I came up with a draft about how I felt stagnant for months, worked in retail for half a year, and interned at a local newspaper (but didn’t get any experience with hard news; even if I did cover hard news, I live in a small college town where the most exciting event is the Farmer’s Market—but hey, the white peaches and freshly-popped kettle corn are amazing).

I realized I couldn’t produce any meaningful writing because I hadn’t really suffered or taken any risks—I didn’t get a low-paying entry level job in my field, move out on my own and struggle to pay rent in a tiny apartment in San Francisco with 5 roommates, or spend a year teaching English in Thailand (all of which are paths that people I know took after graduating). I also hadn’t progressed much either. I didn’t even bother to apply to graduate school (let alone establish connections with my professors or try hard enough to get straight As) or apply to any jobs at all for months.

I settled into the uncertainty of post-grad life that had stressed me out all of senior year, but I got too comfortable. I lived in an upper-middle-class suburb with my parents, I lifted weights three times a week in our home gym, I binge-watched way too many new shows (I’m ashamed to admit I spent two weeks doing nothing but watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians), and my only friends were my kid siblings and my cats. It felt like college never happened at all. I looked through my old photos obsessively and posted them on Instagram, not ready to move on from the past (the #tbt sadness is real). I missed the freedom to be out at 2am without having to answer to anyone (but to be honest, I spent most of college in my room watching Netflix), I missed being able to hike alone to the beach, I missed having friends I could watch scary movies or dance in clubs with, I missed walking around campus and feeling like I belonged when I ran into people I knew. I missed going to meetings and having discourse and educational presentations about social justice issues and believing that the non-profit organizing I did mattered. I missed having the drive and pain to write raw pieces about self-love and heartbreak for my blog. I missed having an identity outside of who I was when I was back home with my family.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m incredibly grateful for my parents for taking me back in after I graduated and allowing me the time to figure out my own path. I’m especially grateful for how much they supported my decision to quit my part-time job in retail to focus on writing a self-help e-book. I know I’m very privileged, and the fact that my biggest problem is that my life is too comfortable has held me back from writing anything at all. I almost feel as though I don’t deserve to share my voice because my lack of struggle makes me boring and whiny.

Maybe I’m a masochist, but I’ve always believed that pain creates the most meaningful art (my late grandfather, the artist Jose Babauta thought this too). I started Lovescrewed post-heartbreak and my most powerful pieces were about jealousy, breakups, and an abusive relationship. But since I got into a healthy long-term relationship (damn you Nate for making me so happy!) and moved back in with my parents, I’ve been fortunate enough not to have any hardships to write about, besides my long distance relationship (which isn’t that bad either—we only live an hour-long plane ride away and visit each other every couple weeks).

About a month ago, I decided to apply for a job at the newspaper on Guam where my great-grandfather, grandmother, and dad all have worked. Guam has always been like a security blanket for me—I know that if I absolutely can’t find work or can’t afford to live in California, I can always come back home and look for a job. My worst case scenario is to return to a beautiful tropical island where all my childhood friends, extended family, and goddaughter live, and I can get paid to write (yeah, my life sucks). After a few interviews and my first time negotiating salary (I’m a big girl now!), I landed my first adult job, as a fourth-generation legacy at the newspaper that brought my family to the island in the first place. My heart swells just thinking about spending time with my baby first cousins, living at my grandma’s house where her backyard is literally a waterfall, reconnecting with all my friends from growing up, and most importantly eating at Jamaican Grill and Capricciosa (the list of foods I want to eat on Guam is much longer than the ones of people I want to see and activities).

Despite all the awesome positives of moving back to the motherland, I’ve been staying up past 3am and sleeping in almost till noon—as I always do when I’m depressed or going through a big life change. Taking this reporter job and living in paradise for a while seems like a no-brainer, but all I can think about is saying goodbye to my four parents, my younger sisters and brothers, and my boyfriend of two and a half years. I know my family will be here when I come back (not knowing exactly when I’ll return makes me feel even more anxious) but I’ve never gone so far away from them for so long. It hurts just thinking that I could possibly lose a whole year of my little sister and brother’s lives, and they’ve already lost their baby voices and are catching up to me in shoe sizes. And it scares the shit out of me thinking that I could risk ruining a happy relationship with the love of my life for a job I don’t even know if I’ll enjoy yet.

The fear of change and loss is so crippling to me that when I first got my job offer to stay for a year, my first instinct was to say no and to just take my safer path and become a teacher. I could probably be happy getting my master’s degree, living in Southern California, and teaching middle school, but my dad asked me: which option excites you more? Undoubtedly, the idea of working in journalism and getting out of my comfort zone (admittedly, into another comfort zone, but without the safety of my immediate family with me) is more exciting to me. Settling into my backup plan, albeit a great one, feels like I’m lying to myself about what I really want. I told him that I felt selfish for choosing a job halfway around the world, especially while I’m in a relationship, but he told me that it hurts to feel like I’m not choosing my partner, but it would be even worse not to choose myself.

I don’t know if this job will make me happy. I don’t know if I’ll love living back on Guam as much as I’ve romanticized it in my head after being away for the past six years. I don’t know if my relationship will stay just as solid while we’re 17 time zones apart. But I do know that if I stay comfortable if I let my parents take care of me forever, if I don’t take a chance on myself and do what scares me (but ultimately excites me), I won’t get back the drive to write like I had before. I’m afraid of losing the safety net of my parents and the security in my romantic relationship, but I’m even more terrified of how much of myself I’ve lost since college—the pieces of my individuality that keep me staring at old photos of myself from when I knew who I was—and how much more of myself I could lose if I don’t take action by pushing myself to grow more. Things could go wrong, but for the first time in over a year, I’m betting on myself. TC mark

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