new start.

One of the phrases I hear myself repeating often is “I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life.” I have said this to my employers, my parents, my boyfriend’s parents, my friends—all in the same exasperated tone—as though I am exhausted from exploring options and ready to just choose a career out of a hat and go with it.

I have been lying. It took me nine months of being a college graduate to realize that I know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to love people, take pictures, and write things down. Yes, I would like to get married, have a couple of kids, maybe some dogs, go to church on Sundays, and save up to afford a lake cottage. I also want to read a lot of books but never think I’m too cool to watch hours of re-runs of my favorite shows on TV. I want to see more of the world but not be one of those people who thinks traveling to Europe makes you a better person, because while it may change your life it also may simply indicate that you are rich and lonely. I want to exercise and take care of my body and cook great meals for my friends and family and tuck my kids into bed knowing I have taught them how to pray and how to dream.

The problem is, I don’t know HOW to make these things happen. I know how to write only because I have been doing it my whole life but I am horrible with spelling and grammar. (You’ve probably already noticed.) My professors and parents tell me to “send out” my poetry but I don’t know where or how to do so. I know how to take photographs but I don’t know how to start my own small business or how to aquire more photography jobs. I have absolutely no idea how to be married or raise children. I don’t even know how to train a puppy. There is a puppy sitting on my lap as I type this (I’m babysitting, of course) and she “goes” in a litter box…like a cat. I want to take her home with me and train her how to pee on a fire-hydrant and show her what a leash is.

I am slowly learning how to take care of my own body. I run all the time, but lately my back has been hurting, and I realized I should probably throw in a couple of sit-ups in the mix if I want any kind of core strength and want to avoid my spine snapping in half. I have tried to learn how to cook. I made gluten-free vegan cookie-dough bites so I can do anything, right?! Except cook any form of meat

Albert Einstein famously said, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” But lately I have been feeling like I have learned nothing since I left college. So, I made a list. I learned this skill when I was seven.

What I Have Learned Since Graduating College (December 2011)
1. That college does not last forever, no matter how badly you want it to.

2. How to operate an iphone

3. $7.99 a month for a Netflix account is worth it (so is that scented candle at Target that you know you want.)

4. That the beautiful and inspirational author Anne Lamott exists. currently reading everything I can get my hands on.

5. That my college ID doesn’t have a year on it, which means Jcrew discounts until I’m 30.

6. That eating meat is horrible for you and the world. (Jonathan Safran Foer convinced me, but I still do it sometimes. Also, don’t make quinoa burgers for your boyfriend.)

7. How to cook a butternut squash

8. A million little things about other people’s kids (Will doesn’t like chicken nuggets, the pink baseball is the easiest for Wyatt to hit, Brighton sleeps with the radio on 105.7 etc. etc. etc.)

9. How to juice vegetables

10. That living alone is lonelier than you think (and you will want a puppy more than anything.)

11. How to take a bubble bath

12. How to take wedding photos

13. That I really do need glasses

14. That the poem “A Primer” by Bob Hickok exists.

15. How to get a library card

16. That VSCO exists

17. That Provin Trails Park exists

18. How to get my car registered in a new state (I did this yesterday.)

There is a serious problem with this method of measuring my post-college progress. Because what my list doesn’t contain is the people I’ve met, and the stories I’ve heard which have changed me. Since graduating I have met Josh and his wonderful family, as well as become closer to people I met while in college. I have reconnected with a friend through a regular e-mail correspondence and had the opportunity to show six of my friends around New York City and my parents around Chicago.

This is why I want to grow up to be someone who loves people, take pictures, and writes things down. I  know what I want to do. I also know I have a lot more to learn. Some money would be nice, but what I want and need is more people and more stories. More than a puppy of my own and another scented candle, I need more friends and family and tales of tragedy and triumph. Gimme, gimme. I just want to love you, take your picture, hear your story, and write it down.