There’s a graduation tradition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to walk up its grand hill, climb up the statue of Abraham Lincoln and whisper your hopes and dreams into his ear. Why there’s a statue of Abe on Wisconsin’s campus and why it’s turned into a lucky charm is beside the point; what matters, is that that moment – sitting on top of the hill, on top of the world – is the moment for Wisco grads, to bask in all their glory and look out onto their bright, metaphorical future. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to feel…
In my experience, climbing up to ten-foot tall Abe was kind of a disaster. All I could think was, “Dear God, don’t let me fall.” I’d graduated with a double-major in History and Communication Arts-Radio, TV and Film, and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Here I was at the top, with a clear and open path ahead, and I couldn’t see my future at all –“don’t fall; don’t misstep; don’t fail.”
Do I sound like a liberal-arts, millennial cliché? Perhaps. But I consider that feeling of fear not just as a millennial moment, but a very human one. Whether it’s a “quarter-life crisis” or “mid-life crisis” – you can call it whatever you like — leaving behind one life stage/lifestyle and starting anew is overwhelming, and it’s not just specific to my generation.
Think back on your first job and feeling that moment of uncertainty. In my case, I walked into the world of association management completely blind. I didn’t know such a field even existed before my interview, and honestly, I still struggle to describe exactly what I do to my parents. Unsure of pretty much everything, I questioned the most basic things, like whether to use “reply” or “reply all” in emails or if I used the correct ratio of coffee to water in the coffee pot.
They say that millennials are more invested in their work environment than their actual work, and to a certain extent, I couldn’t agree more. But, it’s not the space that creates the environment, it’s the people who fill that space. I knew I had found a good office when my coworkers’ faith in me helped to regain faith in myself.
At AMPED, I’m surrounded by “people” people who encourage me to take those steps, and missteps down the uncertain road to success. As someone who has been working for just three months, I know that I will undoubtedly take those missteps and sometimes fall (let’s face it, I have yet to master the coffee/water ratio). But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that you don’t need to rely on one big moment to get you to where you want to go –it’s the series of those missteps that force you to readjust and set you in the right direction.