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11. February 2020

Starting Over When You’re Starting Out

By: Mary Eveleen Brown, My Next Season Intern

Life is full of transitions. As a college graduate who recently moved from small town Mississippi to the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, I am learning that transitions are hard, necessary and full of growth opportunities.

I graduated with a degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from the University of Mississippi in May of 2019. In September I packed my bags and moved to Charlotte to join The Fellows Initiative, a nine-month Christian professional development program, and knocked on the door of my host family — whom I had never met. This move was certainly scary and quite intimidating, but through it all, I have learned several important lessons about what it means to “start over” in a new city.

Graduating college is a unique season. When I was nearing graduation and my friends and I were all figuring out where we would move next, I realized that I could move pretty much anywhere I wanted. As long as I had a job and the means to support myself, I had nothing holding me back from moving across the world. This was daunting. The realm of possibilities that opened up in my mind was more intimidating and stressful than exciting. But looking back on my decision to join the Charlotte Fellows program, I want to share the choices I’m glad I made, and what I wish I had known before taking the next step in my life.

  • First, I feel so grateful for the community I have formed here. I think when young people are considering life and career transitions, they rarely consider the presence of community or potential community. I’ll be honest, I didn’t. However, I got really lucky because I was thrown into an amazing, intentional community. When I moved to Charlotte, I immediately invested in the local church (another part of my program) and met local people who wanted to surround me in this season of life. I felt overwhelmed with love and gratitude for the people who wanted to get to know me, people whom I had just met. I think it’s so important to surround yourself with people who want to encourage you and get to know you in your next season of life. Transitions will always come with difficulty and hard decisions, but as long as mentors and friends are walking alongside you, those hard times will be met with steadfastness instead of defeat. When moving to a new place it’s easy to fall into a cycle of loneliness. It takes an intentional decision to meet people and build a healthy community. I want to encourage anyone who is leaving their college community to make a decision right now to actively pursue relationships in your new environment. That support network will be crucial as you experience the ups and downs of your next season.

  • Another thing I learned after starting my first professional nine-to-five job is that there are so many people who genuinely want to help. In my workplace I am surrounded by older and wiser mentors who have so much advice to offer, but I’ve realized that it’s up to me to take advantage of their help. At first, I felt uncomfortable reaching out and trying to invest in those relationships. But as I got to know my supervisors and co-workers, I realized that they all want to pass their knowledge on to me and they are happy to help me in my career. This realization has led me to believe that it’s vital to be mentored by those who came before you. It is easy to assume you know everything you need to know and it’s certainly more comfortable to only invest in relationships with people your age, but by letting those more accomplished people help and mentor you, you are accepting a valuable gift. This has been my experience with the people at My Next Season and the Charlotte Fellows who have mentored me and put me on the path towards a bright future and career.

  • Finally, something I really struggled with when I moved to Charlotte was comparing myself to my friends who had moved to other cities and were doing seemingly more exciting things with their lives. I saw them excelling and making new friends and it felt like they were light-years ahead of where I was in Charlotte. I became self-aware of a very real and unhelpful “competition” that lurks beneath the surface of young professionals. I let the comparison of my peers defeat me many times in the last four years, and while I’m sure it’s something that is a constant battle, I am working hard to not let it reframe the joy I am now experiencing in my life.

  • We are constantly subjected to the highlight reel of other’s accomplishments, reminding us of how we haven’t measured up in some way — or how we have not achieved our expectations for ourselves. The most ironic part about this downward cycle is that the cycle is of our own making. My freedom comes when I decide to turn off the voice of comparison and respect the things I AM doing and acknowledge the real, felt value in it. I’ve learned that everyone transitions differently, and that someone else’s success doesn’t signal your failure. Each person’s success looks different.

    Whenever you leave college, be excited for your friends and their successes, but don’t let that be your yardstick of success. Comparisons are never real nor fair, and it never leads to you being more content in your life.

    There will undoubtedly be a time in your new city where you think you’ve made a mistake or you feel lonely. The practice of contentedness will have insurmountable value in your professional journey. Whenever you find yourself comparing career paths, communities or happiness, think about your own personal definition of success. Don’t let comparisons steal your joy.

    Moving to a new city can be terrifying and exciting at the same time. When so many changes are happening at once, it is important to evaluate your attitudes and expectations before you do anything else. Excel in your next season by finding and creating value right where you are, and remember, you may just be one awkward conversation from getting the help, support, friendship, fun, reward and companionship that you seek and want. People want to be helpful. They want to be in your lives and play a part in your story. Only you can open that door and invite it to happen.

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