The moment you have been waiting for has finally occurred. You graduated. You took your last summer off to do things you always wanted to do. And, now as you begin your new career, you are suddenly filling empty, void, uncertain, and insecure. You are having an identity crisis. And it happens to everyone.
I suffered my first identity crisis when I was a junior in college. Since as long as I could remember, I defined myself as a dancer. Everything I did revolved around being a dancer: the workouts, the stretching, the meals, the clothes, the physical appearance, the volunteering, the presentations and performing. And, the time came that I had to give that up. I felt like my identity was stripped. I had defined myself as a dancer for so long and devoted so much of my life to it, that I had no idea where I would go from there.
It took me some time to pick myself back up, reflect and distance myself from the situation, and re-invent myself. It was not an easy process but in the end, I am proud of what I had become. I had to learn to separate myself: dancing was what I did, but not who I was. I could still be all those things that dancing taught me: presentable, classy, professional, confident, creative, innovative, athletic. I just had to find other avenues to do it. In fact, my life brought me back to dance as I coach my own team. It is funny how life works out: sometimes, the things we least expect and most want come back to us.
So, I started exploring myself. I took up a new hobby, I introduced myself to new friends, I entered a research internship, devoted myself to my teaching program, bought a new car, strengthened my relationships with my family, and learned to love myself.
I see so many of my friends going through this same identity crisis. We have devoted so much of our lives to athletics, to school, to always reaching the next step, that when we graduate, we find ourselves lost, bored, and uncertain. I think that is why so many people go to graduate school right after college; the unknown is uncomfortable and we want to go back to structure, to people telling us what to do and making decisions for us; the familiar class schedules with the homework and scheduled breaks. We want to go back to a time that we can see an end–just one more semester, just one more test–that the workforce does not allow. We want to have answers, but sometimes, we just have to accept that life is about obstacles, challenges, it is about changing, growing, finding, replacing, and reinventing yourself.