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The beautiful fountain in front of Kresge Library on Oakland University’s campus. Taken by Anna J. Palm on May 17, 2016.

At the risk of sounding sooo cheesy, I write this to tell you that if you’re unhappy about where you are, things can always change. As bad as things may get, you have the power to make the difference in your life.

Let me tell you a story.

Less than a year ago, I had nothing going on. I was sharing an apartment with my brother in Mount Pleasant, a farm town that’s really only awake during college season, residing on a flatland countryside literally in the middle of Michigan’s mitten. More accurately, in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t see the town that way while I was attending Central Michigan University and certainly not when I came back for a journalism job at The Morning Sun. But when the company you work for suddenly goes through budget cuts and downsizes several of its newspapers, it’s difficult seeing anything on the sunny side.

I had worked at the paper for two and half months. They called me into the conference room on a Friday afternoon (three weeks before Christmas) and told me, “Today is your last day.” No warning, no two-weeks notice to give me a chance to find a new job. It had no reflection on my work; they just couldn’t afford to keep me. From what I hear, that company is gradually going out of business at this point.

Two months later, I was making $8.5 per hour (before the state’s minimum wage went up to $8.9) as a courtesy clerk at Kroger, plus I managed to get 5-10 hours a week at Kohl’s unloading the truck. During my spare-time, I read a ton of self-help articles and (counter-actively) looked at my friends talking about their new jobs, upcoming weddings and travel plans on Facebook. I fruitlessly searched for other journalist jobs, preferably far far away from Michigan. Eventually I realized that I didn’t give a shit about journalism anymore. I applied for grad school at CMU, but changed my mind after having another epiphany: I can’t fucking stand Mount Pleasant. More importantly, you can’t start a new life at the same place.

Looking back, it feels like it took me a little too long to figure that out, but I suppose I was just stuck emotionally. Once I moved back into my parents’ house and began attending grad school at Oakland University, everything changed for the better.

Since then, I have met so many interesting, smart and funny people. I am working towards a master’s in communication and find myself setting goals for the future. I’ve read more scholarly articles and books in two semesters than I could have possibly imagined doing in two years. My professors have introduced me to Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, Angela McRobbie, bell hooks and the Foss twins. I got to work as a graduate assistant for one semester, helping faculty with grading and their own research and re-designing the billboard for the graduate program in communication. Since I set foot on campus, I have performed so much research, for instance, on women in engineering, postmodernism, feminist rhetorical theory and many other topics within communication.

Not only that, people are showing interest in my research! Only last month, I presented my paper on women’s representation in Game of Thrones and other fantasy shows at a conference taking place in Western Michigan University. It was for the Michigan Academy of Science, Art and Letters, where tons of professionals and grad students gather to talk about their work. Now OU’s communication and marketing department want to include me on a series of videos promoting research. If someone would have told me a year ago, “Hey, people are gonna ask you to be in a video and talk about Game of Thrones,” I would have scoffed.

And next month I’m going to Washington, D.C. for the National Conference for College Women and Student Leaders! It’s so crazy how I turned my life around, starting with the thought, “Fuck this place! I’m outta here.”

I don’t have a recipe for success and everyone’s situation is unique, but I’d like to leave you with some words of advice for changing your life.

  • Ask yourself what you want. What are your goals? What is important to you and why?
  • Figure out a plan on how to achieve your goals. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be as simple as finding the answer to, “What now?”
  • Ask for help: In my case, I was lucky to have support from my family and friends. Whatever you need, turn to someone you trust.
  • Do your research. Be curious. Ask questions.
  • Fear is normal: Change can be spooky. It’s perfectly OK to be nervous when you try something new.
  • Write an end to your last chapter: Whatever made you angry, sad and/or frustrated before, it’s in the past. Tell it to fuck off and move on.
  • Celebrate the change: It’s brave to make a change in your life, whether it’s a decision to jog every morning or packing your things and move to another city. Pat yourself on the back!
  • Dare to dream: Once you start pursuing your goals, you’ll find yourself thinking of other adventures to embrace. I myself have become much more of a go-getter since I started grad school. I even started taking karate classes last summer!

Change can become a domino effect of happiness once you’ve turned your back on the negative things in your life. I hope you’ve found my advice helpful. Now go do stuff!

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