Earlier this month, I was speaking to a local sorority about smoothing the transition between college and “the real world.” During the Q&A session, one of the young women asked me a question: What is the one piece of advice that you would give your 21-year-old self?
The answer: Don’t quit.
Like many women, the first two/three years of my post-graduation experience were rocky. Managing finances, learning how to be a good employee, carving out a path for my career–it was all a bit more difficult than I imagined it would be.
I was almost completely alone in a city far from home, and I spent most of the first year thinking that I had made a big mistake, shaking the couch cushions for grocery money and thinking I’d never make it. I cried. I lost sleep. I thought daily, maybe hourly, about packing it in.
Quitting would have been easy. I had few connections to D.C.. I wouldn’t have been leaving good friends or a job behind. It would have taken me half-a-day to pack my belongings, get on a plane and go back to what was familiar and easy. But I didn’t.
I’m one of those women who doesn’t regret the mistakes she made, I regret the things that I didn’t try.
Had I left D.C. at that moment, I would have forever been a quitter. I would have always wondered, “What if?,” and I wasn’t prepared to spend the rest of my life in regret. If I was going to leave D.C. and give up this dream, then I was going to do it because I chose to leave, not because succeeding was too hard.
So my advice to the women graduating this weekend is that the first few years are always difficult. Having big dreams and achieving them isn’t for the faint of heart. There will be days when you’re sitting at the bottom of the well thinking, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” But if you can make it past those days, there are always better ones ahead.
You are stronger than you think. You are capable of great things if you are willing to put in the work. And if you get to a place where your “big dream” no longer feels right for you, then leave because you choose to do something different, not because the path to achievement was too rocky. Don’t give up on your graduation-day dream, unless you find a new one that you want more.