Don’t Forget the Hinges

If-opportunity-doesnt-know-build-a-door-1024x694By Jennifer Abing – “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle

This quote expresses my life since my graduation from University of Wisconsin-Platteville in May 2011. I was your typical 22-year-old undergraduate who was involved in extracurricular activities, worked a part-time job at the local movie cinema, nominated for awards by friends and faculty, and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. My goal throughout that senior year, besides surviving “senioritis,” was to attend graduate school. I applied to one master’s program, thinking that all my accomplishments would outshine other applicants.

This was when I first met my wall without a door.

I was placed on the waiting list for that one master’s program. I cried holding that letter because I didn’t have a backup plan. After shedding my tears and talking with family and friends, the next course of action was to get a job. Everything was going to be okay, I thought to myself. I will take a couple years to work, save money, and strengthen my resume. I will study for the GRE, take the test, and apply to multiple graduate programs. I needed a break from education anyway! I can do this!

Here is when I started banging my head against the wall.

My thinking went back to my old ways: I was going to outshine all these job applicants. I forgot that I obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and I was geographically stuck in southwestern Wisconsin. Unfortunately, no matter how much I emphasized my transferrable skills, it was not enough in an area that was manufacturing- and farming-focused. Then add in the fact that it was 2011 and the economy was still bad. I realized there were very few jobs I could actually apply to, let alone qualify. My high standards dropped month by month throughout the summer, leading down to applying for jobs that only required a high school diploma.

I landed a job working in a call center in October 2011. I learned more transferrable skills, but I was very unhappy (I still believe that everyone should work at least one customer service position in their lifetime). I was driving an hour commute one way to a barely-over-the-minimum-wage job.

After the holiday season ended, I worked additional temporary jobs through staffing agencies. Some of these positions I enjoyed, but they were not what I wanted to do. Therefore, I was stuck repeatedly knocking my head against the same wall for a couple more years.

Thankfully, a “dent” or “hole” was starting to appear in my wall.

I was accepted into Marquette University’s College Student Personnel Administration Master’s Program. There was a bright light shining into my monotonous life of temporariness. I had a goal again, a new finish line. I was excited to move away to a new city with more opportunities. A door was starting to form, but did not finish despite all my great news.

I applied to obtain a graduate assistantship, but did not receive one. I had to take out a great amount in federal loans. I still realized how lucky and fortunate I was, but after my past few years, it was still a blow. Thankfully, I met great people through my on-campus job in the College of Education Office. It was also a great environment to ease into all the readings and homework. The support system was overwhelming, so I felt happy again.

The door was definitely forming, but it was still in my way.

After reflecting on these past few years, I realized what I was missing at that time. In order to finish that door, I needed “hinges.” My parents, my aunt I lived with, friends, other family, and Marquette colleagues were my missing hinges; the support I needed to finish that door. Towards the end of my first year at Marquette, I decided to re-apply for a graduate assistantship. Although I received some discouragement saying that it was improbable for me to obtain one, I still applied. I remained optimistic. If I did not get another one, then I would stay in the College of Education Office and finish my second year strong.

Well, I obtained a part-time assistantship. Then halfway through the summer, again through my amazing support system at Marquette, I obtained a second part-time assistantship. In addition, I was introduced to a unique practicum opportunity through a Marquette colleague/friend. In addition to that addition, I gained my second practicum opportunity by cold-emailing, which then led to my current job.

Don’t forget the hinges!

I expended a great amount of effort over the past few years banging my head against that wall. So much time and effort wasted without getting anywhere. I was too stubborn, proud, and egotistical that I did not think to reach out to others for support in this process.

My “hinges” allowed me to focus my time and effort elsewhere by showing me opportunities. They knew I was capable, smart, and a strong worker; I was just going about it all wrong. They helped me create a door and the opportunities overflowed. I am loving life now, and I have so many people to thank for all the guidance, support, help, and continued friendship.

To all my “hinges,” thank you for helping me build my door.

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