The Lessons You Learn In Life Don’t End After School

CTF Fitness Specialist – Betsy Hood 
I’ve now been out of college for less than a year. I remember sitting in my last final thinking how lucky I am to finally be done with tests and homework. I always worked hard in school, but I was never the strongest academically so knowing it was over was exhilarating. Needless to say, I was wrong. I have experienced some of the biggest tests of my life post graduation. There are three major things that I have learned about  “the real world.” One, you have to lose yourself in order to find yourself. Two, college creates unrealistic ideals. Last of all, when you stop learning you stop growing.
#1 You have to lose yourself to find yourself.
Throughout the major chapters of my life I have always known my place and identity. My role has been a student, daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend and fitness fanatic. Many of the same roles apply; however I’ve lost my role as a student. There are no more grades and no more requirements to get you from point A to point B.  Now, I am a full time fitness specialist.
I’ve chosen to go into Fitness because I’ve always had a passion for it. I love what I do and I love helping people. The transition period from student to full time has led me to a much less structured lifestyle. It gives me the freedom to learn what I want and work as hard or as little as I want. However, in this transition period I find myself more lost than I’ve ever been. I sit in a room with people my age and older who seem to have their career already figured out. It overwhelms me to know that I don’t. I still continue to question my decisions and life choices. What am I doing? Who am I? Where am I going? Is this all I am? Can I do more? Am I smart enough? The questions seem to be endless, but many of them I struggle to answer. An overwhelming sense of confusion and anxiety consumes most of my time if I don’t keep myself busy.
The positive side of this dilemma is that I’m starting to learn a lot about myself.  I have found myself more apt to step out of my comfort zone and try things I would have never of imagined. I continue to find out what I’m made of with each obstacle thrown my way. Being lost has helped me learn to stand on my own two feet and learn how to support myself. It has provided me the opportunity to reinvent myself and explore a side of myself I never knew existed.
#2 College has the potential to create unrealistic ideals.
Growing up in a house hold with a single mother, I was taught from an early age how to be independent and the importance of a college degree. It was very important to my mother that I learn how to support myself. In my mind, I figured if I went through school to achieve a bachelor’s and master’s degree than I would be all set. I was under the misconception that if you had both of those pieces of paper, life would be good. If I put in the hard work to get through school and find a full-time career then it’s smooth sailing from there forward. Well, that ideal came to a screeching halt when I realized that you have to work just as hard if not harder to make something of yourself in “the real world.” People don’t always care about the degrees behind your name, but rather how hard can you actually work. Just because you have your master’s doesn’t always mean you’ll get compensated properly for it. You have to start from the bottom and work your way up just like anyone else. So what was my purpose of going through school?
Now I know it was to teach me structure and discipline. This discipline translates into truly understanding the value of hard work and money. I never realized what it was like to feel the pressure of living paycheck to paycheck. The pressure of feeling like you’re suffocating and never going to get ahead. Every student struggles with money, but that grows as you move into the adult world. I figured if I worked so hard to achieve my master’s degree, that would help me get further in my career. Yes, it’s great to have and it was a huge accomplishment of mine, but it doesn’t mean everything. Just because you have it doesn’t mean money and success just magically gravitate to you. You have to be willing to make sacrifices and put in the hard to work to take steps forward. Life after college is not always sunshine and rainbows. Life is really.
There are good and bad times. There are ups and downs. However, I have picked up that there are never failures. Failures can be looked at as steps to move forward and should be taken as learning experiences. If you’re too scared to take a step forward because you’re afraid of failure then you’ll never know what you’re capable of doing. Accept “failure” as a stepping stone. It is a key learning piece in the big puzzle of your life.
#3 When you stop learning you stop growing.
While I was in school I always looked at homework as busy work. Doing assignments became a chore. However, now that I don’t have to do assignments or go to class I miss learning. When you keep your mind open to learning new things you continue to grow as a person. I now enjoy studying material outside my profession. The world is filled with information that is right at our finger tips. It is important to take advantage of as well as every other opportunity that comes your way. I now understand that instead of being intimidated by people that are smarter than me or happen to be a better athlete than me it’s important to surround myself in their presence and learn from their strengths. Be open to what people have to say. I’ve realized that when you think you know everything you stop growing. Everyday that you’re given on this Earth provides the potential to take a step forward, to learn something, to express to your loved ones how much they mean to you. Though I still have so much to learn and a long journey ahead of trying to accomplish my vision of the best person I can be I am still very hopeful.
I have learned quite a bit about life since I walked off my college campus for the last time as a student. I have learned that I am not going to accomplish everything in one day. I have learned that I struggle finding patience with myself, but it’s a weakness I can keep tackling. I have learned that I’m not the only twenty something year old that has ever felt lost, scared, and uncertain of what the future holds. I have learned that I will go through many trials and tribulations. I have learned that the simple things in life matter most.
In addition, I use every piece of advice, lesson learned  and experience as a learning opportunity. Yes, I’m nervous about what my future holds, but I’m also excited to experience the opportunities that are ahead with an open mind and an open heart. Life does not workout exactly as you expect, but you play the cards you’re dealt and make the most of them. Life isn’t always fair. I believe that more than ever now. When you fall down, get back up and try again. If you have a goal go after it. You may hit a couple of road blocks and dead ends along the way, but the good news is there are so many different roads to take to get to your destination. My mother always told me to take life one day at a time. So, for those of you feeling lost, scared, and unsure like I am, just take it ONE DAY AT A TIME … BREATHE!

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