I’m covered in beer and I’m shaking. It’s the Thursday before Christmas Eve and I don’t want to be here anymore. My black converses are warped from all the hours I’ve put them to work, and my feet ache.
“I – I just can’t do this anymore. I just can’t.”
He studies me and I can tell he knows that I’m serious. The calm and collected girl he has come to know is gone and she is officially having a nervous breakdown. In front of me is a glass half full of liquor for sangria, the pitchers I had made earlier are long gone and I’m stuck making them by the glass now, there is no time to stop and reset.
“Come on just a little longer,” he says cheerfully, but he’s not dealing with this, he’s simply making sure that I don’t screw up, and he knows I won’t. He’s come to depend on the fact that I won’t mess up, so he mostly ignores me. But right now, I’ve never felt like this before. The tickets keep printing with more and more drink orders, and the crowd around me is tripling in size. How in the hell did I get here? It’s the year of unknowing and I can’t figure out how I got stuck here bartending. There is no stopping. There is no end in sight.
With graduation season here yet again, I’ve stopped to take a look back at the past year. The year of unknowing. After graduating from college last spring I had no concrete plans. All summer I sent my resume out to every job opening that seemed of interest to me. And that’s what I continued to do for months and months. But after an entire summer of silence and rejection I decided I needed to get an “in the meantime job.” I took a job as a bartender in a restaurant and lounge and then somehow landed an unpaid internship in the city. Between these two jobs I was working over 70 hours a week and only getting paid for half of that time. I was tired and cranky, one workweek would end only for another to begin again, and my entire life just felt like, well it felt like bull shit. But I hadn’t had any expectations for this year, for the first time in my entire life I wasn’t going back to school, and I didn’t know exactly what to do with myself. This is a scary thing, approaching the new; a future with no plans at all.
Friends of mine got jobs right away, or they were accepted into grad schools, or law schools. They had some kind of vision, and I secretly hated them for it. I knew nothing besides I had my degree, and I liked to write, but where was that going to get me? Behind a bar, that’s where. It wasn’t all bad though. It wasn’t all as insanely busy as the holiday season when I discovered I had been holding my breath for an entire twelve-hour shift. I made some amazing friends, met some we’ll call them “interesting” people, and learned things that I will carry with me forever. The year of unknowing helped me realize some of the things that I definitely don’t want to do with my life. It left me to take care of my grandmother for a month when she was all alone. And then, about a month ago, the year of unknowing finally gave me a job as an editor with a small children’s publisher.
To anyone who is curious about this first year, the year after graduation I’m here to tell you it is disappointing, disheartening, frustrating, but also surprising, amusing, and gratifying. It’s full of laughter and tears just like every year of life is going to be. Ups and downs are what make life worth living. Each and every year from now on is going to be the year of unknowing, you never know what you’re going to be handed, and I’m ready to find out what comes next. To all of this year’s graduates, congrats and enjoy your unexpected futures.