Sarah Rosangela works as a writer, designer, and professional baby wrangler. She is the co-creator of I Hate The News, a non-partisan space dedicated to constructive dialogue about global development. She loves print publishing, pistachio gelato, and East of Eden. She is wholeheartedly convinced you are built for Good.
I graduated college with a fancy sounding degree, a decent amount of student debt, and a long list of expectations from Life. I can’t speak generally, but the one thing I took away from university is that if you put in the work you can have anything you want. For all the hours I spent tutoring, writing papers in Russian, and debating the legality of Nepal’s interim constitution I was owed a well paying job, a pre-war brownstone, and a nerd-chic boyfriend with a beard; that can all be delivered to Sarah Rosangela in Brooklyn New York, thankyouverymuch. Needless to say, I was in for a rude awakening.
It seems that as soon as your step off the cobblestoned paths of university campus, the world starts catcalling. From one corner they will shout that you cannot have it all, that you must choose; choose between family and career, enjoyment and responsibility, dreams and practicality. From the other corner they will holler that yes, you can in fact have it all, that if you perfectly and meticulously balance it all then you will achieve blissful happiness; if you don’t you must chalk it up to personal failure.
They’re both wrong. You can have it all. You just can’t have it all right now.
All too often we allow our dreams to get in the way of fulfilling themselves. Between personal and societal pressures we convince ourselves that unless we can execute our goals perfectly and immediately, we aren’t living up to our potential. That unless we can execute our goals flawlessly and instantly, that we shouldn’t bother.
We end up feeling pulled in a hundred directions; between wanting to start relationships and families and wanting to build our careers. Between wanting to start our own businesses and wanting to pay our rent on time. We want a perfectly Pinterest-ed home but we have a paycheck made of pennies. I’m here to tell you it isn’t going to happen. Not right out of university, anyhow.
If this all sounds a little spirit crushing, take heart.
Women fresh out of university typically have mentors and heroes who are well established in their respective career fields. We admire them because they are successful in their passions, as well as financially secure. In our admiration we quickly forget that they graduated university and entered the workforce several years, sometimes even a decade or more, before we did. The economy was different then, the internet and blogging culture were different also. It was easier to get established, to get ahead. We must be careful that in our adoration we do not compare our To-Do list with their list of accomplishments. We need also to give ourselves some credit; while our generation bears the brunt of recession related job loss we also find ourselves at a unique advantage to embrace creativity, financial responsibility and sustainable life practices . We will leave university and the recession far more empowered and informed than our predecessors.
When I graduated university I had a nine month old baby. I wanted to start my career right away but the cost of childcare, compounded with the guilt of leaving my child with a stranger, made it impossible. I struggled with anxiety and depression because I felt I wasn’t an adequate mother, or member of society. I wasn’t building my 401k or traveling the world, and I wasn’t staying at home creating divine meals either. I was freelancing while nursing a baby and tripping over toys as I walked to the kitchen to microwave frozen vegetables. It was hardly glamorous, but it was the season of my life for parenting.
Once I settled into the idea that I was in my season of motherhood, I was able to relax and enjoy it. I made time throughout the week for other interests, such as freelancing and volunteering (this helped keep my resume relevant), but I accepted that for the next few months I would be focused on motherhood. And to my surprise, I then thrived at it.
I realized that if I wanted to do anything well, I needed to lean into the limitations of time and ability. I simply did not have the time or the capability to pursue all of my dreams at once. Nobody does. Multitasking my goals left me feeling mediocre. The Einsteins and van Goghs of the world weren’t known for managing a multitude of projects, they were known for executing one craft exceptionally well.
Do not let the world dictate your life’s trajectory. Society rarely provides us with enough grace or time to accomplish our objectives. Make your own.
Now that I’ve been out of college two years and my daughter is in preschool, I’m able to focus my time on building my small business and traveling with my recently acquired (bearded!) boyfriend. I am only able to stand here and say that I’ve begun to get what I want out of life because I overcame the lie that it had to be done perfectly.
If there was one singular thing I could tell a young woman leaving university, it would be this:
You can have it all. You just can’t have it all right now.
And you can’t get a custom brownstone delivered to Brooklyn.