Graduation Gift Guide + How to Survive Your First Year in the Real World | Mermaid Waves | Chicago Fashion Destination

May 4, 2017

Graduation Gift Guide + How to Survive Your First Year in the Real World

Hey Merbabes! I can not believe this time last year I was getting ready to graduate high school.  I honestly don't remember a single thing, besides going to prom with a piece a pizza and giving a speech at graduation about selfies.  I was hashtag stressed out, I find it laughable how miserable I was last year compared to how insanely happy I am today.  I put together this rainbow-bright gift guide for the graduate / future girl-boss in your life, to congratulate them on making it out of school alive because its brutal.  Trust me.  Reminder you can shop everything by simply clicking on the item you love.

Along with this gift-guide I wanted to offer up some knowledge on your first year out of school. I didn't go to college so I can't speak much about surviving frat parties and the dining hall, but I can speak to what happens when you are no longer in school.  It seems like every corner of the internet is filled will tips for college freshman; what to pack, what to expect, life hacks... the lists are endless.  I couldn't seem to find a single guide to being a freshman in life.  Not one, so I had to figure it out myself.

1.  Have a Plan

My "plan" last May included living out of Chicago doing classical ballet 24/7.  Currently I am living in Chicago, doing a little ballet, a little social media, a little fashion, a little get the point.  Between the months of May and July my plan A, B, and C all fell through,  I graduated high school with three viable options to continue my ballet training and I got the magical rejection email from all three.  Thats a terrifying thing to experience.  Things ended up falling magically into place, as they always do, and I can confidently say I am happier doing what I am doing now than I would have been training 24/7 but it definitely didn't feel like it at the time.

You may be a little confused because I am telling you to have a plan even though I literally obliterated my own.  With my "plan" I was able to graduate high school confidently knowing that I was going somewhere.  It allowed me to say with confidence that I had decided not to go to school but I had things lined up.  It also kept me super motivated throughout the summer to find my place and work hard because I had an end goal.

2. Know the Answer to the Dreaded Question

My biggest fear throughout the year has been the dreaded questions of "So like, What do you do?".  Every time I heard those words I immediately wanted to crawl into a hole and cry, just the thought passing through someones head that I am doing nothing but taking snapchats killed me.  That led me to nervously giggle and respond "lol literally nothing" or "um I dance".  I know very well that I have done more in the last year than some people do their entire life, but all that judgement flying at me at once made me feel super ashamed of my choices, and completely shut down.

The thing that helped me get through this was literally having Kelly (my mother) role play that question with me.  She would ask me the dreaded question and I would have to respond.  Now when I get asked "what do you do?" I say;  "I dance professionally with a contemporary ballet company, I have a successful fashion blog, I run social media accounts for local small businesses, I work retail part time, I just started as a fashion editor for a live TV network, and I am currently starring in a short film." BOOM.

This also goes for interviews, know exactly how you are going to handle the questions about college. I have been lucky enough to score a position from every interview I have gone to this year because I handled my situation with confidence.  I simply said that college wasn't for me, as I wanted to pursue other creative opportunities that felt more time sensitive, like ballet.  Be true to yourself and really think about why you decided to take this alternate route, it will show that you are a leader and confident enough to make your own decisions.

3.  Accept that your Lifestyle will Change

Your life is about to change like a crazy amount.  For me, I still live comfortably at home with my parents, in the city I grew up in, but this year felt like I was living in a whole new world.  Small things like you meal schedule will completely shift, I went from eating breakfast, heading to school, going home for lunch, going back to school, coming home from school and having dinner.  Now I have to work to find time to eat, some days I start my morning around 8 a.m. and don't return home until 7 p.m., thats two solid meals.  I am often eating a PB&J while waiting for the metra, or chugging down a smoothie between helping customers.  Meals are a non-negotiable IMO, so I have to plan them as a part of my day.

Another thing that completely changed was my body, I joke that I gained the freshman 15 without even going to college, but its not really a joke.  I went from dancing four hours a day, six days a week, to dancing four hours three days a week, going to soul cycle once a week, taking yoga classes, running, plus whatever else I can fit in my schedule.  I have not only gained muscle but my body has completely transformed and that is something that I have had to accept but also chose to embrace.  Fitness has become a huge passion for me and I love that it is a part of my life.  Working out is one of the only ways for me to relax and de-stress, so I feel blessed that it has become part of my lifestyle.

4.  Keep Growing Your Goals

Just because you are out of school and working your booty off doesn't give you the authority to stop growing.  All the initial hard work you put in shouldn't come to a halt because you've achieved one thing.  Keep growing your goals and actively work towards reaching the next level.  I love making lists, I choose the write down my goals and break them into smaller tasks.  By completing these simple tasks daily I am always moving towards bigger and better things.

Along with growing your goals, continue to push for new opportunities.  Apply to a job that you have absolutely no experience for, go to every audition, and talk to absolutely everyone.  The experience and connections you make at the beginning of your career will stay with you forever.

I hope you loved this post and are feeling inspired to take on the world! What did you learn this year? Let me know in the comments and lets grow together! XO


  1. Inspired to take the whole world because of this post! I actually can relate to you when it comes to that dreaded question, eh. :)

    Cathy @ mermaid fashion


  2. Great content indeed.
    Very Useful post.
    Thanks for providing it


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