When I attended the Fair Trade Campaigns 2018 National Conference in Washington D.C. in March, I was thrilled to meet Ben Conard, a fellow fair trade advocate, whose Tedx Talk had given me inspiration in leading the Fair Trade Campaign at the University of Dayton. At the time I watched the video, Ben had already graduated from university, was participating in a business program in Germany, and had started his own fair trade chocolate company. Talk about an impressive start to post-grad life! Upon finally seeing him in person at the conference, I felt star-struck.
The last day of the conference I got to talk with Ben, hoping to gain some insights. As we shared about our experiences, Ben affirmed my own post-grad plan – doing a summer fellowship and living with my parents. Yes. The well-traveled, award-winning entrepreneur assured me it was more than acceptable to save money, live at home, and take my time to figure out my next step. He told me it was a good approach.
Transitioning from College Graduate to Working Professional
Three weeks in to the Fellowship, and I knew it had been a great choice for me! I have been gaining professional experience in the nonprofit sector, contributing to work that benefits fellow Ohioans, and connecting with and learning from others in my hometown area. Those three aspects were each goals I had for my summer after graduating from college. Even so, I have struggled to meet some of my other goals.
In addition to the Fellowship program, I wanted to be in the Columbus area to spend time with my family and friends from home since I had not often been in town the past few years. I also wanted to dedicate time to self-care, something I largely over-looked while filling my schedule with extracurriculars at Dayton. Perhaps most importantly, I appreciated that having plans until August gave me more time to make a decision about my future. Even so, at the end of June, I had an imbalance in these areas.
As I reflected on my first few weeks, I wondered where my time outside the Fellowship had gone. I had expected my time to be abundant compared to college. Unlike the varied daily schedules of class, work, and activities at school, I would have a set routine thanks to work, full evenings without homework, and I would be away from the constant attraction of opportunities and events to attend on campus. The first few weeks I indeed worked the same hours every day and had my evenings open, but the length of the evenings felt shorter than I anticipated, and I quickly filled them with one plan after another. Without considering the impact it would have, I had already scheduled most of my weekends as well, leaving little time to rest or decide on my life after the Fellowship. Even time with family was becoming more of an afterthought.
By week 3, I had taken a step back again and kept my weeknights more open. That Thursday evening, when what I wanted most was to go bowling by myself as a form of release, I realized I needed a different approach to the summer. While bowling alone was satisfying and an activity I would happily do again, at most it could amount to a hobby, not a step toward my longer-term goals. I was reminded that despite being back in a familiar environment, I was a much different person in a much different situation in life, yet I had been acting without a clear sense of direction. I needed a plan to follow.
Upon reflection, Ben was absolutely right about the benefits of living with my parents. I still have a number of the privileges and comforts of home and a great support system while I am figuring out life after college, but I largely had been taking that for granted and acting like a bit of an adult-child. This summer was never intended to be time to kill; it was meant to be a period of transition from one stage to another.
I must have missed an inherent part of Ben’s encouragement about my track for the summer. Living with parents is a great option after college as long one treats it right, taking full advantage of opportunities to build connections, develop habits for future success, and explore career possibilities. That’s why when I recommend the idea to others, I will be sure to say that being a professional living with parents is a great choice. Being an adult-child living with parents could be an alternative path if one wants, but that is not my goal, and I cannot let it become an end in itself.