Beyond the Bachelors: The Tara Wepking Story
In that final semester before graduation this past May, I was all about making Plans. That’s right, I’m talking about proper noun Plans, with a capital P and all – an official set of guidelines as to how Things were going to go after finally receiving my diploma (with Things in general set to mean the Big Decisions and Events that typically accompany those first few fumbling steps into adulthood after finally receiving an undergraduate degree). In those last few months, the last few weeks of college, I might’ve been sad as I prepared to leave, but I knew that in the end, I was prepped, set, and ready to go. First off, I’d be moving to Denver with a group of my closest friends, setting up a home base of sorts to support each other after the big relocation. I’d get a fantastic job as assistant editor at a magazine, obviously, and I’d be living the good life in no time. But it didn’t take any of us too long to realize that, uh – that wasn’t exactly going to happen for us.
I didn’t take the news too well at the time – I’m prone to anxiety under the best of conditions, and here, life had come up within weeks of graduating to snatch that dream away. Cue a good solid week of sulking in my room and spending too much of my graduation money on hair dye and mini-golfing in my hometown. You can imagine the dramatics – picture lots of flailing. That is, until I realized I still had my back-up plan still tucked safe away in the corner. I took a position as a reporter for a local newspaper, and I thought to myself, “Now this. This is going to work out.” See, I’d move into an apartment in St. Louis and make the half-hour commute into work each day. I’d still have most of the friends I’d come to rely on in college surrounding me, and it wouldn’t be that long until I could build up my portfolio and find a similar job on that side of the river, right? Right? See, the thing is, that plan wasn’t taking into consideration the fact that the editorial staff of that paper had shrunk from 11 employees to four within a two year period – oh, or the fact that the salary was barely enough to even pay for the 15 minute commute back and forth from my parents’ house, where I was living rent-free at the time.
It was somewhere around this moment in time when I was forced to stop and realize, to my shock and horror, that all those Plans I’d started to map out so diligently while I was still in school weren’t exactly working out the way I thought they would, in any way shape or form. Then, I got a phone call notifying me that I’d been hired for an office job at an insurance company down in Nashville, TN. Back before I got the notion in my head that every inch of my future needed to be mapped out to a T, I’d always considered Nashville as a vague sort of option for the future – I fell in love with the city on several visits down to catch different bands now and then. So, with not too many other options on my plate, I called back, accepted the job offer on a leap of faith, and within two weeks I was signing the lease to my very first apartment on my own, out of state. That was five months ago, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that I made one of the best decisions of my life during that call.
Not a single bit of the life I have now was ever part of the plan. This step wasn’t even kind of the plan; it wasn’t even a subset to the most minor details of the plan. But you know what? It’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. I love every minute of it. Now, for the first time in 19 years, I don’t know what the next step is going to be. I’m not attending school; I’m not constantly relying on my parents’ continued support to get by. I’m not surrounded by the faces I grew to depend on during my four years at Greenville, and if something doesn’t quite go my way – if I’m not making friends, if I’m late to work, or if I’m scrambling to scrounge up enough money to pay my power bill – I have no one to blame but myself. It’s a heavy thing to realize, but there’s a freedom that comes along with it all, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.
In the past five months I’ve lived in Nashville, I’ve met more interesting people, had more fun and learned more about myself and my own abilities than I have in the years I spent in the comfort of home beforehand. I’ve found vats of creativity in forms I’d never thought to consider before – I also stood next to Jack White at a Halloween poetry reading, which, you know, is definitely worth mentioning. I’ve found out that hey, there are good people all over the place, if you’re willing to give them a chance – and moreover, most of those people? Well, things haven’t worked out for them just the way they thought they would either. But one way or another, we’re all getting by.
As you work your way closer and closer to your graduation date, regardless of your year, there’s going to be a lot of pressure from the adult world around you wanting to know what your next step’s going to be. Are you getting married or going to grad school? Do you have a job yet, and do you know where you’ll be living? Sometimes you’ll fake an answer just to get by, and sometimes you’ll know for sure and be able to answer with a smile. For some of my friends, every bit of their plans has played out to a T, while others find themselves in positions like me, where things aren’t quite like they’d imagined. But quick, take a deep breath, look in the mirror and tell yourself what I wish somebody had thought to tell me when I was in your shoes. No matter what happens next, I promise – things are going to be okay. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the time it takes to figure out where you’re going to be later this year, or the next year or the next. It might not always be the easiest, but I promise you, it’s going to be an interesting ride.