Written by Mara Strobel-Lanka + Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire
The life I chose began when I was 19. Christmas music inaugurated my sudden adulthood as I drove twenty hours from my Midwest hometown to a never-before-seen craigslist apartment to begin my next infinity. My mother's dresser, my father's stubbornness, and my grandmother's library leftovers accompanied me in the backseat - tearful reminders of the loved ones I was disappointing. I arrived in Jacksonville, FL, with a packed wagon, half a tank of gas, a lack of a college degree and eleven dollars in my checking account. I was not ready or nearly mature enough to transition from a careless college student into a living, breathing, independent adult. But, as it often happens, the world doesn't give a shit if you're ready or not.
It was an empowering day when I learned that I could fail at the expectations set for me by others and still succeed at the expectations I set for myself. I've learned more in my two years out of college than I ever did while in it. I've learned that my old Subaru can run for exactly eighteen miles after the red needle drops below "E". I've learned how to live off of five dollars worth of food per week, indefinitely. I've learned how to interview for jobs I'm not qualified for and work hard at the ones I don't enjoy. I've learned you can never overuse the words "thank you." I've learned how to file my taxes and scramble to pay my bills. I've learned to be patient. I've learned to hustle. I've learned that how you treat the people in your world determines how the world treats you. I've learned that failure is simply an opportunity to pick back up the quintessential pieces of yourself, and begin again.
Those lessons have gotten me further in life than Philosophy 100 or linear progress ever did (sorry, Dr. Freiberger). Fast forward two years, and I have two rewarding jobs, an adorable apartment, a cranky orange tabby, just enough money in the bank to to not be petrified of the first of the month, and a sense of pride in the babe I've become. I live a life I am thrilled with, and it did not happen because of a college education or a tireless success story. It happened because even when it felt impossible, I clung to my faith that I am a good person, that I have valuable talents to give the world, and that my life was far from over. Losing everything forced me to cherish what I had inside myself. I leaned hard on writing, on sailing, on the parts of myself I had forgotten. I wouldn't encourage anyone to drop out of college, but I would encourage anyone who's reading this to see failing as more of an opportunity and less of an ending.
is a Michigan native and content creator for local Jacksonville, FL boutique, MOMNI. When she's not styling photoshoots or writing for the MOMNI blog: The Boutique Next Door, you can find her sailing, dancing, or sprawled on a beach blanket with her latest read.