My Transition from College to Professional Life: A whole new kind of juggling act
by Cynthia Eby
Just a little under six months ago, on June 13 of this year, I graduated from college at Seattle Pacific University, with a major in Linguistics and Cultural Studies and a minor in Spanish. Over those months my life has changed in many ways, some of which were quite unexpected and difficult to handle.
Before graduation, I remember one conversation I had when I was chatting with the Area Coordinator for the campus apartments where I lived. As we talked, he compared life in college and after graduation to a juggling act. In college, he said, you’re juggling a whole bunch of tennis balls at the same time, but they’re small and light. After college you aren’t juggling as many items, but each one is bigger and heavier. I didn’t really think too much about that conversation until long afterward, but I remembered it recently and I think he may have had a point.
The specific items I’ve been juggling over the past few months have certainly changed, and in many ways that I had not predicted. The main change that I did expect was the change from school to work, although I didn’t expect it to be so hard or take so long to figure out. After I graduated and the insanity of college subsided, however, I was able to slow down and notice that there are other important juggling balls I need to pay attention to. These were almost counter-intuitive to the transition to work that I wanted to do after graduation: taking a break to just rest, and then dealing with some health issues that I had been ignoring for too long. But even though it was frustrating at times, I had to deal with them before I could even hope to begin working with a regular frequency.
The item I most expected to be thrown into my juggling routine, although it took the most time to materialize fully, was work. In July, I started working part-time for my mom, Helen Eby, as her administrative assistant. Although the other things I was juggling interfered significantly, I have worked for her at some level almost every month since then—gaining exposure to various things I could pursue further and being given time to think about what I really want to do. It’s a gift to be able to have this time with her as my boss, since dealing with my health would have made working for anyone else nearly impossible.
This item was thrown into the juggling mix in such a normal way that I didn’t really think about it much before or even during the process, but it was important nonetheless. I came home from college so exhausted that all I could do for the first few months was crash. I did some things in the meantime—reading, talking to friends, a little bit of work, trying to reorganize my room so that it felt like my own space again—but I mostly rested and recovered from the insanity of college life. However, because I had done this every summer after working my tail off during the school year, it just seemed like the natural thing to do at the time.
Finally, a much heavier item landed in my routine, pushing some of the smaller items I have not mentioned out of the way and even pushing work almost entirely out: treating health problems which I had ignored through most of college. I had known that they were there and had intended to deal with them after graduation, but I hadn’t realized how much they got in the way of my everyday life before I fixed them. Dealing with these issues took time and large amounts of patience. I waited months to have appointments with doctors and then to schedule tests afterwards—followed by a few more weeks of experimentation before we could get effective medication. Finally, as I grew most tired of waiting at the beginning of November, I finished with this process and had a system of medicines that worked.
What I Learned
By the end of November, my patience had worn thin as I continued to juggle these few—but heavy—items. I was frustrated that I had not been able to do as I wished and work steadily, especially as I watched some of my friends appear to be much more successful in their post-graduation lives. It was difficult to make myself take a step back some days, breathe, and remember that it doesn’t matter if this is normal, what matters is that I need it. And it must not be too uncommon, since student loans come with a six-month grace period—which I have needed—with no questions asked.
Taking a step back from the less immediately pressing item—work—for a few months does not mean that I am weak or incapable, I have learned, it means that I am strong enough to know what I need. It means that I will be more prepared to really step in and work more when I can. It’s not easy to take time to care for my health, but it is important to start my adult life on the most firm footing possible.
It’s the same way juggling physical objects: If you don’t start simply, adding just one tennis ball at a time, you’ll never be able to juggle five bowling pins with ease.