The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Personal essay: Melissa Lamm considers what comes at the end of the tunnel post-graduation

4 min read
A young lady surrounded by three birds: one on each soldier and one on her head.

Melissa Lamm is a senior communications and digital studies major graduating in the spring of 2024. | Photo courtesy of Melissa Lamm.


Staff Writer

The thought of life after college can cause a lot of anxiety for soon-to-be college graduates. This has been something I think about far too often, especially as I near the end of my college career. Since the age of six, I have been going to school in some way. Now, at 24 and with only one semester left of my university education, I am finally nearing the end of the tunnel. 

In college, we were told we can pick any major or minor of our interest and pursue studying for our dream career. And we’re told you can pick from any classes and electives that interest you—as long as they’re available, of course—or else you waste hundreds of dollars taking a coding class when your passions lie with art, just to get your credit hours.

My father gave me three choices before I graduated high school: college, military or “get out.” At that point, I knew I couldn’t afford life on my own yet, I knew I wasn’t built for the military—especially since I was raised by a veteran—and having a degree seemed like a good thing to have under my belt. The problem was I had no idea what I wanted to study or what I wanted to do with my life. 

So, when I got to college, I had a lot of anxiety trying to decide on a major, knowing it was a commitment. I realized that most adults I knew had jobs that had absolutely nothing to do with their degree, so I chose to major in communication and digital studies because it seemed broad and flexible enough for a career path, whether that be in planning, media, art or writing. 

The problem is, that I refuse to work a job that prevents a creative environment and doesn’t give me some type of joy or fulfillment. Similar to my academic work as a student, I know that most of my time will be dedicated to my job once I graduate, so I want to do something I enjoy. 

When I take a step back from my life and academic career, I can’t help but laugh at the thought that I have dedicated thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours and countless restless nights getting a degree in hopes that I’ll find a career that will financially support me. However, there are people like my boyfriend for example, who have no college education and earn more than most college graduates after they receive their degree. 

So, after three-fourths of my life spent chasing a piece of paper, who am I once I’m done with it all? Of course, I’m still a daughter, a girlfriend, a best friend, an artist, a pianist, a server and more, but I wonder about life on my own, having a full-time career, a house and bills, and I wonder how I’m going to execute doing all of those things on my own. 

I have a lot of anxiety surrounding the thought of adulthood and being independent, especially as my parents get ready to move back to Turkey. When I break down all the little things in life and how much they all cost, like paying for rent living right outside Washington, D.C., car insurance, medical and dental insurance, utilities, phone bills, groceries and my dog, I’m left with nothing and even less to help support myself financially in the real world. Of course, the easiest answer would be to find a better job, but I know myself well enough that I would go clinically insane working a job that didn’t bring me some form of joy and fulfillment. 

Currently, working in the service industry is a well-paying job for my current circumstances, but it’s not a career; it’s not something I can do forever. That being said, I love my job and the people I work with, and I’ve learned that one of the most fulfilling feelings is building positive connections. Life is pretty bland without people you love by your side, and you can’t have those people without taking the first steps to create a positive relationship. 

My major has taught me not only how to be a better communicator, but the importance of leaving a positive impact on others. As a server, I rely on creating positive connections and building relationships with strangers in order to pay rent and bills. Even despite the obligation to be nice to earn a living in the service industry, I’ve learned that creating positive relationships is the first step towards a fulfilling experience both in the workplace and in my personal life.

I know I’m not the only college student or young adult who experiences these feelings, but I find comfort in not knowing the plans that life has ahead of me and that everything could change like a flip of a switch. 

Although I don’t know what my life will look like tomorrow, after I graduate or 20 years from now, I do know that I want to pursue a creative field, whether that be creating a clothing brand, selling art, tattooing, writing poetry or publishing a book.

Regardless, I’ve learned that life can be unpredictable, and there’s no use in trying to control it all the time. I fully trust that life will always work itself out in the end, and I trust that I’ll find a well-paying career that will support me in life and also align with my morals and personal identity.