Hilltop Views

Successful grad gives students guide on how to lose

Victoria Ochoa

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In 2013, Beyoncé changed the world when she released her self-titled visual album. There’s a moment in one video, “Self-Titled: Part 2. Imperfection,” that’s always resonated with me. She describes the moment when Girls Tyme failed to advance on Star Search. At age nine, she learned that you could work super hard, give everything you have and still lose. At age 32, she learned that you’re never too good or too big or too smart to lose and that it happens when it needs to happen.

I want you to go to Ragsdale and look at the wall next to Jo’s where the framed photos of students hang. You’ve probably passed me a million times when you were late to class. I’m up there because I was one of last year’s Presidential Award winners. I forget that I’m up there because I no longer get to hang out on the hilltop and because I was dumped the weekend after I received that award. The woman in that picture had no idea how many times she was going to “lose” or fall short of her goals over the next 12 months. She had no idea that she would fall short of two guys, two fellowships, two post-baccalaureates, multiple job offers or that members of her family would get seriously ill.

The woman who is now typing this in a Capitol Hill coffee shop is a little tired, but smiling nonetheless. You will inevitably lose after graduation. You will fall short of your goals and things will not go as planned. But Beyoncé was right: there is beauty in these imperfect, but absolutely necessary moments. You just have to be willing to see it. So here’s what I’ve got: a guide on how to lose.

Rule #1: Always find a reason to laugh at yourself, either sarcastically or in genuine bewilderment

The day before I walked the graduation stage in May, I was rejected from two post-baccalaureates at Rice. A couple hours later, I fell asleep on the floor of the Alumni Gym waiting for graduation mass to begin in a gown two sizes too big because I had left mine at home. My friend uploaded a picture of me sleeping, my body completely engulfed in whatever black polyester plastic material graduation gowns are made of, with the caption, “When you’re graduating, but you decide to be a dirty table cloth instead.” He wasn’t too far off because I felt like a dirty table cloth without a plan.

After, when friends asked me what I was doing after graduation, I could only respond with “eating at El Chile Café at 8:30 and never falling in love again.” I succeeded at the former and failed at the latter, which brings me to my next rule.

Rule #2: Love yourself and find something to love about the process

I know exactly how I sound, but it’s true. If you lose personally, love yourself enough to know that this moment is by no means definitive of your worth or who you are. And if you lose professionally, remind yourself of what you love, who you love and the parts of yourself that you love. Soon after I heard that I didn’t get the Rhodes Scholarship, I went to Pluckers with my little cousin after I cheered her on at a dance competition. I love Pluckers, I love my family and I love who I am when I’m with them. And I also love Texas. I spent the afternoon exploring Houston with the guy who did win (hi Kirk), made him an honorary Texan and made a really cool friend.

Rule #3: Remind yourself of the bigger picture

I work as hard as I do because I feel like I am making up for lost time. My grandmother only made it to the fifth grade because working in the fields and simultaneously going to school was not possible. I hold within me the untapped potential of so many women like her so that the women who come after me can do so much more. That’s why I’m here and that’s a big part of who I am. When you lose, remember what brought you to that point. Don’t lose that either. Use it to pick yourself back up.

Rule #4: Be willing to abandon Plan A, B and C so that you can be open to Plan D

Ultimately, I found a job as a political appointee in the Obama Administration. And then, because presidential administrations must come to an end, I found another job. It took me about five months of job searching to finally land in the Secretary of Commerce’s office and I didn’t start thinking about job searching until November 20, two months before the Obama Administration ended and a day after my fellowship interview. On my plane ride back, I sat next to the family of a former cabinet secretary who asked me what I was going to do next. I was a table cloth without a plan again and I didn’t have much of an answer. They generously invited me to Thanksgiving and connected me to people throughout the city.

Friends checked in to see how they could help. I’m really unsure how I found my current job so quickly, but I continue to believe that the universe puts kind people in your life to encourage you and keep you going. Trust that the universe sends you exactly who and what you need. But first, trust your abilities and execute accordingly.

Rule #5: Commit to blooming wherever you’re planted

I am fortunate to have landed where I am happy and can continue to grow both personally and professionally, but I recognize that that is not always the case. Some of my friends are miserable in their first jobs, but they continue to find ways to grow, develop friendships and find happiness outside of work. If this is you and your first job out of college has the tendency to suck the life out of you, find hobbies outside of work and bloom wherever you’re planted.

Even if you are one of the lucky people who finds their dream job, you should still commit to developing yourself personally. You will suddenly have lots of free time after six p.m. Try and fill that time with workout classes, new restaurants, new languages, books and new friendships. I have found that when you are successful at growing yourself, that energy transfers into other aspects of your life. You’ll learn that success begets success.

Rule #6: Celebrate your wins, but more importantly, find a reason to celebrate every day

Eventually, you will find employment. After a summer in and out of the hospital, your grandma will get better, then get sick again, and then better. You’ll find a place to live. You’ll finally figure out what you want for graduate school. You’ll drink port on great first dates and go on even better second and third dates. You’ll eat more Pluckers. And Beyoncé will release another album.

Celebrate it all and don’t take it for granted. But also celebrate the friends and family who stay by your side when things get stressful and will hear you talk about your stress for the millionth time. Celebrate the people who understand that your stress is valid and give you the non-judgemental space to get through it. Celebrate the people who send you cupcakes and fly in to see you, who rush to your side when things do not go as planned and who pray for you.

Rule #7: They’re how you win.

So take a deep breath and smile. You’ve got this.

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Successful grad gives students guide on how to lose