Once I had a professor rip up a paper I had written right in front of my face. The class was called “Writing for Magazines.” I handed him my paper & before he even read it, he tore it in two, letting both halves lifelessly float to the ground. I’m pretty sure I let out a small, audible gasp. Unfazed, he simply looked at me and said, “First drafts are always sh*t. Let them be sh*t.”
He went on to explain that, as writers, our best work is never found in our first drafts. First drafts are meant to get all the sh*tty content out–they’re supposed to be messy & extremely hard to write. The blinking cursor on a blank screen is supposed to intimidate you into writing things you wouldn’t normally say. You’re supposed to word vomit all of your paragraphs until you don’t know what your initial point was. Sure, there are a few sentences here and there that aren’t complete garbage, but overall first drafts aren’t your best…and that’s okay. Because the real fun begins in the re-writing, editing, second (and third and fourth) drafts. That’s where writers actually write their best work.
The first year out of college is kind of like your first draft. Aka, it’s kinda sh*t (for the most part).
I graduated two years ago & a lot of my friends and I have been talking about how much has changed since then. More specifically, we’ve been comparing the first year out of college to our second one. For the most part, they feel like different lifetimes. We feel like completely different people. During our first year out, we didn’t constantly think “this is the actual worst” (there were some really good moments, after all) but in light of where we are now, that first year out was kind of like a sh*tty first draft.
To all you recent grads reading this, I’m not saying this to scare you. I’m not trying to metaphorically rip up your first draft of the “real world” in front of your face to make you gasp in disbelief.
I’m telling you this because your first year out of college is supposed be messy and extremely hard to create. That blinking cursor of the blank screen of your life is supposed to intimate you into saying/doing things you wouldn’t normally say/do. You’re supposed to just try a bunch of things just to see what works & get kind of lost in the process. You may look back at your first year out of college and realize that it kinda sucked… but all first drafts suck and that is OKAY. The fun begins in the re-writing.
Like my ripped up paper, my first year out of college (in retrospect) collectively kind of sucked. I had a hard time finding a job at first. I struggled adjusting to my new routine. My PR job was super stressful. My boyfriend and I broke up. I battled a small bought of anxiety. I got really, really lost. I didn’t know if I could do this whole “adulting” thing.
But, similar to first drafts, there were a few good “sentences” of that year that stuck out. A few key phrases and choice words that made me smile. I made some wonderful new friendships & strengthened my old ones. I visited fun places & tried new things. I learned so much more than I had anticipated. I figured out what is really important to me and who I actually want to be.
If you’re feeling a little depressed reading this whole metaphor about first drafts and life, hang with me a little longer. Because, if you remember, the fun begins in the re-writing and second drafts. As you get farther away from graduation, you get to take your first draft–all the sh*tty parts of that first year out of college–and re-write it. You get to keep the things you liked (those well-written sentences) and then tweak the parts that didn’t work. Your second draft is going to feel more like yourself. You’ll be saying/doing things that are more like you. Your second draft, and all the drafts that come after, is where your best work lies.
My second year out of college, I got a new job–one that fits me better than I ever expected and actually fulfills my passion. I started getting serious about self-care & actually making time for simple things that make me simply happy. I prioritized what I wanted instead of constantly giving my time and energy to others. I began to feel more like myself again.
The point is, parts of your first year out of college are supposed to suck. The key is to let them suck. It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to be messy. Embrace it. But you will also stumble upon those moments that will bring you pure joy. You have to keep in mind that it’s probably going to get a little harder before it gets easier–you always have to have a sh*t first draft before you can have a beautiful final paper that you’re actually proud of. But in life, just like writing a paper, you get to keep writing & re-writing. Because eventually your sh*tty first draft(s) won’t matter anymore–you’ll have a beautiful story instead. &.