Recently I’ve found myself in kind of a slump. When I graduated college, I almost expected everything to just “fall into place” – so far, however, that has NOT been the case. Like at all. As I’ve been finding my way in life and learning more about myself and where I ultimately want my life to go, I’ve faced some challenges: self-doubt, criticism from friends and family, and indecisiveness. For a long time, I tried to deny that I was feeling these things or didn’t really have a solid plan. But, after talking to some close friends, peers, and women who are more experienced than me, I realized that I’m not alone in going through this. EVERYONE faces challenges, and everyone has to overcome obstacles.

As I’ve been coming to terms with this reality of uncertainty, I’ve become more open in sharing my struggles with other people, especially young women who express similar feelings. This inspired me to get a little more in-depth with some women who have gone through hard times and come out on the other side with a stronger sense of who they are and plans to reach their goals.

SO, without any further ado, here’s a little insight to some of the struggles, joys, plans, and successes of women who have been there…

Erica S. Qualy, poet and musician
Catherine Fleming, Master’s student, studying to teach high school English in urban areas
Zoe Vu, graphic designer and Master’s of Business Administration student

CL: Have people every thought you were crazy or looked at you funny, specifically because of your desired career path?
Erica S. Qualy: Um, yeah, my mom for one! She’s always been really skeptical that I could make money from my art, which honestly may have contributed to my ridiculous drive to succeed and prove her wrong! … She wants what’s best for me…but she just sees making art as something frivolous. She just doesn’t understand why I do it, and to her it might seem impossible to make money from art, but that’s okay, this is my path…and I know it’s possible.

Zoe Vu: When I was 11, I started to tell people “I’m going to be a fashion designer when I grow up.” 90% of adults would laugh it off and dismiss my idea. My mom was the exception. She was always so supportive and would say “You can be anything you want, sweetie. I bet you’ll be the president one day!” Although I have yet to become the first Asian-American, female president, I did achieve my dream of becoming a fashion designer.

CL: Have you ever felt discouraged and unsure of what steps to take to accomplish the things you wanted?

Catherine Fleming: Yes, absolutely! I’m 30 years old, and there seems to be a pervading thought that one has to go to college immediately after high school, and that one must complete college in four years, etc. That’s just not the way life works. If you can go the traditional route and finish college right after high school, that’s fantastic! And if it takes you a little longer to finish, that’s fantastic! And if you don’t go to college and find another way to lead a productive life, that’s fantastic, too!

ESQ: Oh, definitely. I think that’s a natural part of any process, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. That uncertain time is valuable though, because it allows you to reflect on what you’re doing, and that’s when you decide if it’s worth it to you to keep going. If you do really need to be doing that work, you’ll dust yourself off and get back to work. Flowers can’t bloom all the damn time! There is an appropriate season for planting your ideas, watering them, enjoying their blossoms and fruits, and hibernating/resting up.

CL: What’s the best advice you have for young women who have big goals for themselves, but aren’t sure how to get started?

ZV: My best advice for young women is to write down your goals on index cards and tape them to whatever door you see first thing in the morning. I categorize mine like this: this week, this month, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years. The best part about index cards is that you can move them into any category at any time. Sometimes plans don’t work. That’s okay. You just have to keep reevaluating your plans and make sure you are actually making progress on your goals. You have to hold yourself accountable. No one will care if you don’t.

CF: I would recommend trying to get to know someone who is already established in the field you want to get into. They’re often the best people to talk to for advice on how to get started. I’d also recommend just thinking about it. Think about what you love to do, something you’re passionate about, and find a way to make that into a career!

ESQ: The most important thing is figuring out what you want to do. Figure out EXACTLY what it is that you want to accomplish (if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you ever get there??)! DREAM! DREAM BIG!!! Don’t limit yourself. IMAGINE THE BIGGEST BESTEST MOST AWESOME THINGS THAT COULD HAPPEN and then affirm to yourself that it’s possible. Don’t get too caught up on the “but how?” either, because that can slow you down. Start a savings account. Think about who your idols are. What do you love about them? Why? How can you nurture those traits and characteristics that you admire about them within yourself? Trust yourself. Trust that the answers will come to you, that the right people will come to you, that the perfect opportunities will find their way to you. Be kind to yourself and to others- even if you think they might not deserve it. Don’t take old white men too seriously. Recognize your own insecurities and negative feelings when they pop up, acknowledge them, and then let them go. Sometimes we can be so mean to ourselves and think horrible things about ourselves, things we’d never say to someone else- so if you have to, talk to yourself as if you were your own best friend when that happens. Be patient. Take a break when you’re getting frustrated. Practice self-care. Practice gratitude. Don’t ever give up (unless it’s just to start over again). Remember that it’s okay to ask for help.

There you have it, grrls! The road to success is very different for every person. You might question your direction at times, you may not always be as happy in one area as you expected to be, and that’s totally fine. Things usually have a way of working out how they’re meant to be. You may land your dream job and learn that it isn’t what you wanted. You might take a little longer to decide what your ultimate path is. You might be broke at times. But, in the end, you WILL figure it out. You WILL find your path.

And you’ll learn more about yourself every step of the way.