This is a reader submission for our Big Girl Badge week. Tell us how you evolved from woman-child to woman, and you could win hundreds of dollars of prizes! (Send your 800 word submissions to Jennifer [at] or Ashley [at] 

In college, I considered myself to be a strong, independent, responsible woman. I was someone who, for the most part, had her shit together. I worked 25 hours a week at my part-time job, maintained a decent GPA, had all the house bills under my name, and lectured my friends on safe sex.

That’s not say I didn’t make my fair share of mistakes along the way. There was some minor credit card debt I incurred from bar tabs and shopping, some skipped classes that landed me in a conference with my professor, and the couple times when as the campus library student supervisor, I missed opening the doors promptly at 8 a.m. for reasons that will strictly stay between me and my next door neighbor. For the most part, though, I’d say I was pretty responsible. But I wasn’t an adult yet.

I graduated college and entered the period of my life that I like to call my post-college flailing. My first stop was New York. Everyone told me not to do it. A 22-year-old from Kansas with only one connection in New York does not stand a chance. I quickly learned that on the east coast, a state school might as well be Shannen Doherty’s online college. To make matters worse, my internship at a children’s publishing company was not providing any opportunities, as much as they were cutting all positions they possibly could in a job market hit hard by the recession. I was forced to temp at a private equity firm that’s now in the news for having a CEO who loves sex parties. It wasn’t as exciting as it sounds.

Interview-less months went by, and I wallowed in my depression. Things only seemed to get worse. My roommate in New York announced she was pregnant (she clearly ignored my lectures on condoms) and wanted to move in with her boyfriend. I missed my college boyfriend, Jake, who decided he hated New York. I became incredibly jealous of my best friend who graduated after me, yet immediately landed a job at a newspaper in a small town. It didn’t matter that I never missed paying the phone bill on time, that I went to the dentist every sixth months, or that I had a full-ride to college. I was a depressed office manager temp making $15 an hour and about to be out on the streets.

Things appeared to take a turn for the better after Jake offered to move me wherever I could get a job after he finished his graduate work in the spring. I applied for positions all over the country, and we ended up in Phoenix. Leaving New York was hard, but I consoled myself by repeating, “Life is a journey!” We bought two cars. We got engaged. We bought a house in the suburbs. I started going back to school for my master’s degree. In every way, I appeared to be a grown-up.

Then on a visit home, as I sat with my parents at an Outback Steakhouse before I left to go back to Phoenix, I felt my face get hot and the room began to spin. I couldn’t breathe. I excused myself to the bathroom, and began to cry. When I mentally refused to admit that I was unhappy, my body physically did it for me with a panic attack.

If my life was a journey, I certainly wasn’t driving. I had taken a job filled with monotonous tasks because I couldn’t handle the subjective criticism that comes with being a writer. I had bought a house because that seemed to be the logical step after you get engaged. I had gotten engaged because that’s what you’re supposed to do you’ve been with someone for four years. And if I really forced myself to admit it, I had stayed in my relationship because it seemed too much of a hassle to deal with the fallout of breaking up with my fiancé.

I wasn’t independent, and I definitely wasn’t an adult. I had simply taken the easiest route possible in every aspect of my life. I had become a diluted version of myself, satisfied with “good enough” only because it meant I would never be challenged.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that I never was responsible in college, as much as I was lucky. I breezed through school because I rarely had to push myself. I was financially set because I had a full scholarship. I met my conventional ideas of success because I had limited experience. In short, I was a big girl only because I had no big girl responsibilities or desires.

After my little epiphany at Outback, I slowly began to make decisions and stopped living life passively. I chose to leave my fiancé. I chose to sell my house and leave Phoenix. I started at ground zero and began reevaluating every post-college move I had made.

Since then, my life hasn’t been the easiest. Thank God. That’s how I know I’m actually living.