Please welcome today’s guest writer, Alden Hartopo. Alden graduated in May 2015 from Calvin College with a B.A. in international relations and economics. While he currently works in downtown Grand Rapids at a tech startup, Alden plans to attend American University’s School of International Service in Washington D.C. in the fall.

The day I shook President Le Roy’s hand in the Van Noord Arena was the day I believed things would turn around. For the few months prior to commencement, my routine was the same as many seniors in their last semester of college: job searching and more job searching. I remember telling myself that now was the time to finally concentrate and start my career. I was confident that things would fall into place.

Three months later I found myself feeling left behind. At the outset of a new academic year at Calvin, I found myself unemployed, homeless, and struggling with loneliness. Many of my friends were launching new careers, beginning exciting internships, or starting graduate school. By September, I felt disillusioned by my capabilities and struggled with self-worth. Being an international student graduate meant that I did not have a home anywhere inside the United States besides Grand Rapids. This city that had become my home quickly became the city I felt stuck in.

It was challenging to not constantly compare my immediate situation to friends and fellow graduates. I grew jealous of those who appeared to have figured out life. Social media soon became another reminder of my own failures and shortcomings. It was in these times that I found refuge and comfort through the sympathetic ears of friends over late night phone and Skype calls. I will always be grateful for the friends who patiently and routinely listened to me meticulously vent about life while they continually offered encouraging words. I found the friends that stuck by me through the joys and pains, and I emerged with many deeper relationships.

Over time, I learned to be content with the blessings in my current stage of life, while growing more patient and reflecting on my future. Over the last 373 days, I gradually put together the pieces of my life and figured out my own next steps. We all get to the next stage in life on our own unique schedule. Some are blessed to quickly move towards the next step while for others it may take a few months or even years. For those of you that find yourself in similar shoes, I would encourage patience and reflection and not hesitating to reach out to friends.

Though I was able to build on my long distance friendships, I initially struggled with loneliness. I was hesitant to start reaching out to friends I had not talked to in a while and feared that it was too late to meet new people and no one would reciprocate. However, I learned to take a chance and invite people to catch up or hang out. Whether this was a former classmate or acquaintance, I discovered the meaningful conversations that come over coffee. A fellow recent graduate I was never close to at Calvin soon became a close friend. I worked to build on existing friendships I had in the area and learned to never back off the idea of being the one to initiate. Taking those first steps opened doors for new meaningful friendships that helped me get through the year.

Over the months, I grew to love Grand Rapids. When I started an internship downtown this spring, the sights and sounds of the city transfigured into a beautiful sense of belonging. I learned to value the diversity of breweries, the pleasantness of downtown and truly appreciated the sunny days and the warmth of comforting company during the cold and cloudy ones.

More importantly, I learned to rely on my faith more than ever. Even though I was still plagued with heartbreak, worthlessness and loneliness, I was encouraged by my faith and found the strength to push forward with a renewed sense of purpose and hope.

Looking back, those months of uncertainty were my days of discovery. I forgot that figuring out life does not always mean getting a job or going to grad school. For me, that came with the relationships I built, the discovery of my own passions, and the renewed sense of certainty in understanding a part of God’s plan for my life. I learned that the devastating memory of rejection and failure could be absorbed by a laughter-filled late night Skype call with a friend. I learned that my self-worth would never again be defined by juxtaposing my immediate state of life to others.

At the end of the day, I was left behind with an opportunity to pause, reflect, and grow. And I am happy with who I have become because of it.

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