Why I haven't settled down.

photo by Shaynah Vandegriffe

Let's rewind time to May 2015. I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed student preparing for the leap into the real world and to graduate college. I was unsure but excited to step away from my schoolwork, take a break, and see what the world could offer me. Right around this time was the first time someone asked me the dreaded question, "So what are you going to do now?"

My mind went blank.

What am I going to do?? I asked myself this question and didn't have an answer that felt like it could satisfy the questioner. I already knew I was going to be moving back in with my parents in my hometown, (which just happens to be my college town), and I knew I was going to take a break. But those were my only plans. And that didn't feel like a good enough answer to tell someone.

photo by Shaynah Vandegriffe

The summer following my graduation came and went with a flash. I finally caught up on sleep and purged probably half of my possessions. It felt amazing. I've always believed that in order to move forward it's important to look backward. I had taken four straight years (including three years of summer school) of college and never really caught my breath. The last thing on my mind was to jump into a whole new crazy thing.

I had no desire to jump right into a new job, move to a big city, and get stuck throwing away all my money into rent the second I graduated. Although I won't lie when I say there is a part of me that thinks that sounds exciting. I mean, who doesn't want to immediately prove themselves straight out of college, right? I was on staff as a designer for my university's prestigious magazine my senior year–some of the other designers on my team immediately moved to New York, Philadelphia and Portland with really cool looking jobs. I will admit I was jealous–just not enough to send an application somewhere. Something held me back...

photo by Shaynah Vandegriffe

In my opinion, there are pretty much four things people expect of you when you graduate college: 1- Move 2- Get a corporate job somewhere 3- Get Married 4- Go to Grad School. But for me, my post-college plans included none of these things, (unless you count moving out of my college apartment into my parents house.) Nowadays, when someone asks me, "So what are you up to these days," I know they are actually asking me for an update in these four categories. I see how people respond when I tell them I don't have any updates for them and they don't know what to do. I feel their shame for me as they fumble with what to say next. I know they are thinking I live in my parents basement and eat potato chips all day. It's their awkward silence that makes me feel ashamed of a life that I have no reason to feel shame for.  

We put a lot of pride into individuality and self-provision. If you aren't currently in the process of settling down in a house or an apartment, becoming successful in a long-term/corporate job, dating someone seriously or getting married...well hopefully you are getting close to achieving one of those things. If not–well, yikes for you. (aka yikes for me)

photo by Shaynah Vandegriffe

Getting to the punch: it has been almost two years since I graduated college and I still feel like my life is just getting started. I have yet to fully develop my goals and aspirations. I have so much left to do and I don't want to do it all at once. I especially don't want to do something just because it is expected of me.

I have chosen not to settle down. (for now)

Don't get me wrong, I feel the pull of wanting to settle down every day. I suspect it's something that comes with age. For example, this past fall I had thought I was going to move to Portland, but decided against it last minute. Upon closer inspection I discovered one of my main motivations to move had been pride. I wanted to call something my own and feel like I was self-sufficient. I wanted to make other people happy and to feel achieved and good enough. It was from that moment I vowed to myself that I would make decisions based on my goals rather than my emotions

The irony in all of this is I want to get married, have a stable job, move out into a house and have kids someday. I want all of the things most of us will have someday. I have simply decided to press pause.

Please know that I believe everyone is different and therefore has a different life they must live. I don't believe in "one right way" to live, only that we should explore our options. But that is my point. It feels as if there is one definition of success and it is basically for the reasons I mentioned above. There is a certain "status quo" in place and we are all expected to do things the same way it's been done.

So for right now, I am not going to "settle down." I am going to continue to work hard every day at my job and save money for my dreams. What are my dreams you say? Well, let's just say they are big. And I'm not settling.

By Courtney Meili