The Lost Safety Net

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Clearly, some are more confident than others.

By Rachel Wong

I wish someone had warned me about post-grad life. Don’t misunderstand, many of my older friends told me to enjoy the time I had in school, but no one told me how absolutely frightening the real world is.

To be honest, I have a good life. I have an amazing beau, who is also my part-time sound board; a loving, supportive family; a nurturing graduate community of writers; and a good job. However, lately, I find myself panicking.

In college, there was always a safety net. If you didn’t like your class, you dropped it. If you wanted to change your major three times, you could, and without any serious repercussions. Away from the classroom, there is less wiggle room.

If you don’t like your apartment, you can’t just leave– you have a lease. And if that’s up, you have to find another place to stay that’s within your price range and in a decent neighborhood. If your job is stressful, you can’t just quit.

I was a serial Honor student– grades and work came easily to me. If I found something a bit difficult, I just studied a little harder and asked more questions and I would do better. There was no fear of failing, no fear of falling. There was always that safety net.

When I talk to clients, there’s more at stake than just a grade. Everything I do seems to be tied to my profession and my reputation. Whether it’s a boss, client, fellow writer, or graduate professor, criticism, even constructive criticism, takes a toll. When I try to fix something and it repeatedly doesn’t work, I feel like I not only failed the client, but myself. And then I ask myself, “Why can’t I get it right the first time?” or “Am I being thought of badly because I can’t do this?” This leads to the panic and self-doubt, especially to those who usually figure things out easily.

At least once a month, I wonder if I’m cut out to write for a living, if what I’m doing now is helping my future career. I worry and chide myself for not picking an engineering major, with its path to an in-demand and stable career, over a creative writing major.

I’m a tight-rope walker and they removed the safety net. I’m stumbling and wobbling. I don’t want to fall and I fear I might. I don’t necessarily fear the fall; I fear what happens after the fall, what happens when there’s nothing to catch me.

This panic is new to those of us caught in between college and working. We never had to worry about minor mistakes hurting us in the future before. I find that focusing on what I can do and change helps me calm down. I can’t change certain circumstances. Worrying won’t change what I cannot affect. Likewise, inaction doesn’t make a situation better.

We should expect to fall a few times in our lives. We are still learning. The lack of classrooms does not change the fact that we are young and do not have as much experience our mentors and employers have. Mistakes, stress, and stumbles WILL happen. The best we can do is use them as a part of our unending lessons and not let insecurities stop us from trying.

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