Flashback. When I graduated from college in 2009, things were pretty bleak in the job market. I spent that whole summer frantically looking for jobs, knowing it was tough out there, but still somehow optimistic that I'd find something in the field of my dreams (graphic design). I moved to Chicago and ended up landing a part time job at a non-profit and an internship around the same time to hold me over until I found something full time. But my sense of ambition felt totally shot for a while. It was exhausting writing cover letter after cover letter and getting nothing but radio silence. Not even a rejection letter! What felt the worst was that I wasn't creating anything new. I had this impression that I had to be working for someone in order to be creating work of value. Then one day I got so sick of writing cover letters that I just started designing. I had no direction and I didn't really know what it would lead to but I did it anyway. I designed and redesigned my portfolio and resume about a million times. It brought back that same sense of happiness I had always felt while in school when I was learning what I loved. This was the start of a completely new journey of learning, but this time around I had to teach myself. It took a lot more time, but the payoff has been so, so, worth it.
I recently landed the freelance gig of my dreams working as the creative director for a magazine. Ultimately, it happened because of the relationships I maintained from that internship I did three years ago and my incessant need to redesign my portfolio. Throughout those three years I spent a lot of time wondering if it was ever going to pay off and comparing myself to others who seemed to be moving past me career-wise. There were a lot of times I wanted to give up and go down a different path, because it just didn't seem to be happening soon enough. Now I see what a huge waste of energy that was. I still have a long way to go before I'm ready to become a full time freelancer, but I finally feel like I'm headed in the right direction.
It happens at different times for everyone. I'm glad it is taking me a while to get where I want to be, because the whole process has forced me to really evaluate my life. It's ok to take your time. What I thought I wanted when I graduated and what I want now are completely different things that I might not have learned had I gotten a full time job right out of college.
So please, learn patience. Understand that you will probably have to do uninspiring work, and for free before you get to do what you really love. There is a lot of sacrifice involved. It's incredibly hard to envision a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's there. Any step you take to perfect your craft will lead you in the right direction, even if it doesn't seem like it.