I'm 22 and Suddenly Unemployed Because of COVID-19

Almost exactly one year ago, I was a starry-eyed college grad who was equally eager and stressed about her new task of finding a full-time job. If you told me at the time that after six months of what seemed like endless applications, interviews, and those dreaded cover letters, I would get the most amazing first job only to lose it after less than six months of being in the role because of an international virus that would sweep across our nation and halt life as we know it, I probably would have walked away from you very slowly — smiling and nodding. And yet, here we are.

At 22, I never thought that keeping my first job would be harder than getting my first job (not to say that it doesn't take work to keep a job). I just wasn't expecting . . . this. I especially would never have guessed I would be filing for unemployment so soon out of college. If anything, I would've thought I'd still be living in my parents' house, frantically applying to jobs that popped up on my LinkedIn profile while I balanced an array of freelance and part-time work.

I've been furloughed after five months and am trying to figure out what to do next.

For other recent college graduates, I'm sure you can relate to some of these sentiments. When I was in college, I felt like I had to have a job by the time I graduated or else I would have been a failure. Every month that went by after graduation made me feel more and more discouraged, and I started doubting a lot of my abilities and my value. So when I got my current role, I was over the moon. Plus, it meant I got to move to Manhattan and live out my Gossip Girl fantasy I'd been dreaming about since I was 16 (just kidding, my salary doesn't allow that lifestyle, but it's still New York!). It felt like everything was falling into place; not only was I employed but I was also working at a truly amazing and one-of-a-kind company that I fell in love with.

Fast-forward to now, and I've been furloughed after five months and am trying to figure out what to do next. I work at a relatively small company, so we're all very close and even call each other family. I'm fortunate enough to have an incredibly caring and supportive team, so I knew that the furlough had nothing to do with my job performance or value to the company — we just needed to stay afloat. But navigating unemployment so soon after graduation is a bizarre experience to say the least. I went through a roller-coaster of emotions the day I got the call that I was one of the furloughed staff. While I knew it wasn't my fault and my company plans on hiring me back once this mess is over, it was still a blow to morale.

It took some time for me to come to terms with it, and something that helped was keeping busy with my extra free time. I will admit that it was difficult to get used to; suddenly I had a lot more time on my hands that I didn't know what to do with. I asked friends and family what they thought I should do — some suggested updating my résumé on the off chance things didn't turn out in my favor; others said this was the time to throw myself into my hobbies and passions, and others said to treat myself and spend my days binge-watching The Office with a glass of white wine in hand at 1 p.m.

I made the decision that I really wanted this time to be spent doing what made me feel happy and secure. I ended up creating a schedule that incorporated a lot of the ideas above (maybe not drinking wine everyday at 1 p.m.). For me, being organized and having a basic schedule I can stick to really helps calm my nerves and stay focused, and I wanted this time to be about more than productivity and help me recenter myself.

My schedule starts with a morning workout, which never fails to pump me up for the day. Then, I spend the early afternoon doing more work-related activities — writing articles, working on my blog, and even helping my company a little by picking up some extra work. After that, it's all about the creativity! Reading, painting, sewing, you name it, but I wanted this time to be about me and what makes me feel good. And if I'm having a bad day (which happens all the time and is nothing you should be ashamed of or afraid to share with a loved one), I indulge in whatever form of self-care I need in that moment. Staying connected with friends and far-away family also helps keep me grounded and is a great way to lift my spirits.

While this time hasn't been easy, something I learned from the past year is you just have to roll with the punches life gives you. Things are always changing, and you have to trust the process and yourself to know you'll eventually get to where you want to go. Nothing in life is certain, so we just have to live it as best we can. And I'm sure that's what all of you are trying to do, too. So, if you're also a new college grad and have no idea what to do now, don't be too hard on yourself if things aren't going exactly to plan right now. We all feel it, and you're not alone. And we all will get through this.