Humans of BRAVE: Post-College Questioning: Navigating the Real World

Welcome, everyone, to a new series here on Living BRAVE with Meaghan! It is called Humans of BRAVE, and it will feature the BRAVE voices and stories of our #BRAVEfam.

One of the things I am most proud of are the BRAVE humans who work with me everyday to bring the BRAVE mission to life; the humans who embody bravery; the humans who have become chosen family.

I have had the distinct privilege and pleasure to teach, learn, lead, love, heal, grow, laugh and change the world with so many beautiful and fierce souls.

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These humans have changed my life.

And this series, Humans of BRAVE, will put a spotlight on their voices and their stories. I want to amplify and celebrate their BRAVE magic. One thing I know for sure is that the world has much to learn and much to gain from their stories.

To all my Humans of BRAVE, thank you. I am so proud of you and so grateful for you.

To all the humans reading these words, please remember this; BRAVE is not a place, person or thing; it is something that exists inside each of us; inside our hearts, minds and souls.

Above all else, continue to live BRAVE each and every day and take BRAVE with you wherever you may go. At our best and bravest, we can and will contribute even more peace and love to make our world better. Stay awesome, y’all!

Our first post in this AMAZING new series is from BRAVE champion, Brittany Kenyon. She shares her insights into being your best, and bravest, self in a time of transition and uncertainty.

Check out her story below!

Brittany and I at the BRAVE Leadership Conference, March 2017.

Brittany and I at the BRAVE Leadership Conference, March 2017.

Post-College Questioning: Navigating the Real World

By: Brittany Kenyon

Embrace the unknown. Everyone has heard this cliche quote or something similar urging them to set aside their anxieties and live in the present, but how easy is it to actually do?

I’m Brittany Kenyon and I’ve been involved with BRAVE for almost four years now. I started out as a timid freshman at UConn majoring in nursing- Meaghan being my mentor in my First Year Experience class where she shared her organization, BRAVE with me. That led to interning with BRAVE my sophomore year, mentoring students at Sedgwick middle school and running events such as the “Walk for Water”. My junior year I was the VP and treasurer of the UConn BRAVE club, setting up volunteer opportunities, making connections with other members, and remaining involved with BRAVE until my graduation in May 2018. This organization has helped me grow into a more confident woman, eager to share my experiences with others. I am now close to one year post- graduation and have been working at Danbury Hospital as a registered nurse on an ortho/neuro trauma floor. Despite how much support or organization you have, the transition of school to real-world is an overwhelming one. My hope with this post is to use my past experience to help those in a similar situation (i.e. the unknown of future careers, education, and plans) navigate their post-graduate transition.

After seventeen-plus years of following a school calendar, it’s funny to look at your calendar post-May to see no set start day for a new academic year. While some seniors may have taken a job with the place they interned the year before, others are planning to backpack across Europe for a few months before hitting up Linked-In to job search. To be honest, the possibilities are endless-should you apply to grad school? Start in June...what about a September start date? Where should you travel before clocking in 40+ hours a week on the job? Move across the country and start fresh in a new city or live at home for a few years to pay off loans and be near family? It’s daunting to think about the different paths we can take and unfortunately very easy to make decisions based on the ideas other people have for us.

That leads me to key #1 of post-grad decision making:

MAKE YOUR OWN DECISIONS.

For those of you reading, no matter where you are in life, take this as a sign to make your own choices. That’s it. Write out the pros and cons, talk with your best friend, a mentor, a professor- whoever, but make sure the choices that you make are ones that will make YOU feel at peace.

Here’s my story. Despite going to the University of Connecticut, an in-state university, I still had loans to pay off. That paired with the ridiculous cost of living in CT, I made the decision to live at home post-graduation and work as a Registered Nurse at the local hospital in my hometown of Danbury, Connecticut. I could have worked at Hartford Hospital, finished my applications in other cities around the country- NYC, Boston, LA, but deep down I knew that I wanted to start my career in a familiar place and be able to learn the basics of nursing before moving to a big city and thus paying thousands of dollars for rent.

I won’t lie to you- the job I took was not my dream job, I still hope to work in an operating room in a big city...not nights on a surgical floor in the same hospital I was born in. Now seven months in, though there are still days I wonder what could have been if I took a different job in a different place, I pause and reflect on the opportunities I’ve had because of this particular decision. Since staying at home, I’ve been able to pay off my student loans, travel and visit friends, while gaining the fundamental nursing knowledge that I’ll need to move up in my career or find another job. I’ve met some incredible people who I’m lucky to call coworkers and now friends, and have saved up for a place to call my own.

Key #2: Be patient.

It’s easy to get swept up comparing yourself to classmates, especially with social media at our fingertips and posts highlighting others success’. (Disclaimer- I’m guilty of this, too. No one wants to see what I look like at 3am when I’m in the middle of a 12-hour shift...) However, I consciously remind myself that everyone else has mundane errands and stressful to-do lists as well. Life can’t always be witty puns under a gorgeous instagram photo. That being said, remind yourself that no ones life is perfect, despite what it may look like. Some have the luxury of living in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan straight out of college. Maybe they didn’t have loans or landed a job that pays them well, whatever the case may be, just be happy for them and remain patient that you will get there soon, too.

It’s easy to forget how young we all are- being in our twenties gives us plenty of time to go back to school, land our dream job, find a partner, or book those plane tickets. Doors will open when they’re meant to...as long as you’re still busting your butt.

Key #3: Write it down + Work it out

If I had one piece of advice for new graduates, it would be to literally write down their goals on a piece of paper. Since middle school, I’ve kept a journal where I write whatever comes to mind-  how my day is going, the struggles I’m facing, my goals, and to-do lists. Oftentimes I read through them a couple months later and realize that what felt like such a crisis at the time I had totally forgotten about. Writing down goals makes them objective and puts it out into the universe. Grab a pen and paper and get to it! Feeling stuck? Here are some examples:

-I will to apply to X amount of jobs by the end of the month

-I will save $50 a week towards a new phone/outfit/plane ticket

-I will spend 30 minutes a night reading a book for pleasure

-I will limit myself to one hour of social media per day

Even making lists for places you want to travel, small things you’ve always wanted to do, books or movies that have been on your to-do list forever- write it out so you don’t forget about them! This also gives you something to continuously come back to so you can check your progress or regroup if you’re feeling stuck.

If that doesn’t work...my mom always said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. When my kids are upset about something, I tell them to sleep on it…everything seems better in the morning…and it usually is.” She couldn’t be more right! Sometimes it will feel like you’re doing everything you should be- putting in extra time at work, staying up late to finish that assignment, packing your lunch everyday to save up for that summer vacation- but things don’t seem to be falling into place. Take mom’s advice- get some sleep and revisit it in the morning.

No matter what life has to offer you come May, I promise it’ll all work out if you’re patient, work hard, and make decisions on your behalf. Congratulations to all of you soon-to-be graduates!

Brittany on her graduation day, May 2018.

Brittany on her graduation day, May 2018.