Lessons from Hawaii

Submitted by Drew Doty, Class of 2013

It has been a year since I graduated from college and rest assured the learning has not stopped. Rather than walking across a campus to various class DrewDotyrooms where learning was instructed to the rudimentary tune of a syllabus, I now engage the world I studied for seventeen years. In doing so, the magnitude of life has become incredibly real. This is both a blessing and a challenge, for if I succeed or fail in this classroom the effects impact far more than just a grade point average. This is not said in remorse. In fact I find relief knowing that my work now amounts to more than just a number on a piece of paper. I also have come to thoroughly enjoy certain activities that I used to dread, such as writing, which is what has prompted me to write this article.

It is timeless wisdom that tells us we will forever be students in life, and lucky we all are that this is true. In the past nine months since I left Rollins College I have been on a bit of an adventure with a mantra of “figuring it out.” I am currently writing from the Big Island of Hawaii with a list of the lessons this paradise has taught me, most definitely the hard way. I am certain that it is rare for any person to leave the academic world and not stumble, and perhaps this is for the best. How else could we find our gumption? It should be noted that this is not written out of bitterness or regret, but rather as a reflection with the hope of helping others in similar shoes to my own. The following are a few points worth contemplating.

  • Take the time to determine what your work and the time it takes to accomplish it, is worth in this economy. Do not settle for less. This will definitely change as time goes by, but having a starting rate will help you avoid situations where your services may be taken advantage of. In the worst case, where financially you must acquire immediate income, certainly do not pass up a paying job because it pays less that you should be making. However, do actively engage the intention to make this situation as temporary as possible.
  • Before starting a new position, clarify with your employer what your exact responsibilities will be, what your compensation will be, and how many hours per week you should anticipate working. Starting a new job is exciting, especially in an economy where good jobs are hard to find. It will be well worth the time to allow yourself a day or two to process what the commitment will look like for you. Make sure this will be a good investment of your time and energy.
  • For the many people who are unsure of what their exact career path will look like (myself included), work-trade positions offer a seemingly affordable way to travel, gain practical experience, and network. The reality is there are a lot of us who are unsure or are not ready to commit to a career right out of college, and this is just fine! But, this also means that there are a lot of people looking for inexpensive ways to travel and experience new places, which those offering work-trade positions are well aware of. Do not let the lure of exotic travel compromise what you have established as fair compensation for your services. In other words, if you are considering doing a work-trade position, be confident in what you are worth to that employer, and politely negotiate a fair trade before you commit.
  • Always speak your whole and honest truth. It doesn’t matter how you get it out, but you will never feel satisfied if you don’t.
  • This may seem like common sense, but it is still not worth learning the hard way. Never tolerate sexual harassment. Regardless of whether it happens to you personally or to someone in your network, you have a responsibility to yourself and your community to take immediate and thorough action against it.
  • When buying used cars (or mopeds) make sure that the title, registration, and inspection are all up to date. It is more than worth the money to have a mechanic thoroughly inspect the vehicle before you buy. The freedom of transportation is very alluring, but you have got to be patient and smart about the buying process.
  • Unpaid internships should be avoided. Quite frankly, as college graduates (or even students) we should be smart enough to market ourselves to paying employers as valuable assets, regardless of the amount of experience we have in that given field. We have spent roughly a quarter of our life examining, studying, and applying what we have learned in a classroom and we can certainly do this in the workplace. Do not let any company (no matter what their prestige is) tell you that you are not capable of accomplishing the work that needs to be done for them just because you do not have three years of experience doing it. If you want experience in a particular field, it is worth the wait to find a paid position in such field. Consider picking up a more accessible job while you search and keep reading and studying your field of interest. The more you know, the better you can market yourself for the position you really want. Go after what you want and never give up the chase.
  • Travel is a beautiful thing. For many of us, all we know is we want to travel the world and that’s cool. However, what we generally do not see is the value in establishing ourselves in one place for a long period of time. Sure, home is definitely in your heart, but consider how nice it is to have a large network of friends in one place, to know all the hidden gems of certain city, to become an active member of a community rather than just a tourist. By having a home base, you have somewhere to travel from and back to – a place where you can process all the incredible places you have been and to plan your next adventure. If travel makes your heart grow, a home base allows your heart to rest which is equally important. So my recommendation to those who are unsure of what career they want and who really want to travel, find a place where you would love to live for five years. This doesn’t mean you necessarily will, but with that goal in mind you will be critical enough to find a really great location.
  • To add to this, use the time you have now to learn how to save and invest your money really well. I know it sounds agonizingly boring and a lot of the literature on the topic is. However, by saving and investing intelligently, you give yourself the freedom to do what you really want to do (like travel). Also, once you have learned how to do it really well, you will have this skill for life, which means a lifetime of getting to do what you really want to do.
  • Take the time to learn how to grow at least some of your food. It is incredibly simple once you know how, and it can be done in any living situation. Financially, you could save yourself hundreds to thousands of dollars a year depending on the extent to which you grow. This is money you could use doing more things you really want to do. This is another one of those skills that you will have for life, and gladly so.
  • Finally, and this is the hardest one, be grateful. No matter what you are struggling with find a way… find something that makes your soul feel grateful. If you can be grateful you will always find happiness. You do not have to love everything in your life, but you can be grateful for having life.

These are all things I have had to experience to understand for myself and I am sure whoever reads this will have to do the same. I wish all of my generation the best of luck, as we have inherited a big world with big problems and even bigger opportunities.

Cheers,

Drew Doty
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