Commencement is an odd word with two seemingly opposite meanings. It's synonymous with graduation, which is the end of a college experience; however commencement has a second meaning, to begin. For me graduation meant I'd walk away with a bachelor's degree and the beginning of an unexpected foray into adulthood.
Through my four years in college, I was never completely sure about what I wanted to do. I floated from major to major until I settled on business. Now you'd think I'd chosen my major because of a desire to strike it rich in big business but it was something far simpler than that. I liked my business classmates and I couldn't imagine leaving them. Even after I settled on Business, I was much easier for me to tell you about what I didn't want. I didn't want to be an accounting or finance major and I didn't want a job with "analyst" in the title. Not until my senior year did I have any epiphany. Not until my senior year did I allow myself to see my dream job as a potential reality.
During the last winter break of my college career, I really established what my dream job was and started researching like crazy. I spent hours following countless Twitter accounts, reading online articles like the YourIndustryInsider.com blog, and buying several books including the witty, eye-opening book, The Hollywood Assistants Handbook: 86 Rules for Aspiring Power Players. I learned about career paths, the typical entry-level jobs, and who the top companies were. And I returned for my last semester with a new found confidence in my where my life was going post-graduation.
So what's the dream, you ask? Well, the dream is to become a TV producer, to craft female-driven television shows like Amy Sherman Palladino's Gilmore Girls or Lena Dunham's Girls. The first step toward chasing my dream is a move to LA, the heart of the entertainment biz. However, in the last six months, I've come to realize that my dreams might not be as big as the obstacles keeping me from them.
During my last semester I applied for every "entry-level" job in the biz. I became a frequent flier on the CBS, NBC, and Walt Disney Career webpages, submitting 17 applications between those three companies and at least 10 other applications with talent agencies, film studios, and production companies.
The biggest application of my life, bigger than applying to college, was for the dream first job, an entry level program called the ABC Production Associates Program. The program application required a cover letter, an essay, two recommendations, and my college transcripts. Preparing my application took me two months and I finally hit submit on March 30th. Although the program selects only six to eight people every year, I was confident I would be a finalist bound for LA. I poured my heart out in my application and I was sure that would win over the selection committee.
With a decision looming, I was a nervous wreck during all of April. Nothing had come of my other 25 applications, and with graduation just weeks away, this program was my last chance to have my life plan in time to walk across that stage at graduation. On May 1st, I received the email that should have changed my life. In my mind, it should have said I was a finalist and I was heading to LA to live the dream. But as it turns out I wasn't selected as a finalist and a cold, harsh reality set in that day. I was graduating from college with no job lined up and no plans for the future.
The two months since graduation have been dismal. The rosy-colored world I'd imagined growing up, a world teaming with opportunities, successes, and financial stability, has evolved into a glaring red of limits, rejection, and insufficient funds. I've quickly gone from applying for my ideal jobs in entertainment to applying for just-for-now, part-time work at locations like Dick's Sporting Goods and 24 Fitness.
And the biggest surprise for me post-graduation was that I can't even land my "fall-back" jobs. I came to accept that I am currently under-qualified for the entertainment jobs I want, but as a college graduate, I was sure I'd quickly land part-time work and come back to entertainment once I'd gained a little bit of experience.
Instead, the words to Les Misérables' famous song, "I Dreamed a Dream" echo in my head. I'm living with my mom, slowly depleting every penny in my bank account. I'm doing an unpaid internship at a communications company, hoping to learn the ropes of camera operation and video editing. And I'm a planner realizing that, for the first time in my life, I don't know what comes next and the options are limited. I could go back to school and rack up more student loan debt or I can push on in my search for a job.
The only thing that keeps me going is my belief that happy endings can happen and that dreams can come true with a positive attitude, a burning passion, and a tenacity to beat the odds and live the dream.