Life After Ripon – Jessie Lillis ’13

Chapter 6: The Things I’ve Learned

[Editor’s Note: Jessie Lillis ’13, Elizabeth Brown ’13, Kyle Ruedinger ’13, and Amy Browender ’13 are writing alternating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]

So this is it. The one-year anniversary of my graduation is fast approaching, and my brief foray into blogging is coming to a close. It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year, especially when I don’t feel like I have a ton to show for it. Sure, I moved across the country, and I’ve been gainfully employed since graduation, but what have I really done? Some days it doesn’t seem like much. I mean, I’ve been out of school for an entire year; I should have at least cured cancer or something by now, right?

I think it’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that the year following graduation is what makes or breaks the rest of your future. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. At least in my case, and those of several people close to me, the first year is when you start to figure out what you really want (or maybe don’t want) in life. A year ago I thought I maybe wanted to go to grad school someday in the distant future, but that I would probably just be happy in the work force. I thought that I would love living in a group house with six people, four of whom were practically strangers. I thought that I would be making so much money (compared to my normal college student income) that I would always just be able to buy whatever I wanted. Looking back, it’s almost humorous how wrong I was. With another year of wisdom and experience under my belt, I’m actively working toward grad school plans, I’ve moved out of the group house and into an apartment (living with two fellow Ripon grads, coincidentally), and I live in DC, so you can make your own assumptions about how much money I (don’t) have. Maybe one of the only things I was right about was that I wanted to get a dog.

Now don’t take all of this to mean that I’m unhappy or feel like I’ve failed. Quite the opposite, actually. I would much rather take a couple of years in my early twenties to figure things out, than to pretend that every choice I made was perfect and never admit that I could have done something differently, or perhaps even better. If I couldn’t find anywhere to improve, it would probably mean that I was peaking at 22. That seems like a pretty depressing way to spend the next 60-70 years. I’m incredibly grateful for the experiences I’ve had over the last year. I’ve had a lot of amazing moments that I wouldn’t trade for the world, but there have also been some pretty low times. There were moments over the last year where I felt isolated and trapped, which you’d think would be hard to do in a city this size. As cheesy as it sounds, the light at the end of the tunnel for me was knowing that my friends from Ripon would always be there for me.

I’ve learned over the last year that things aren’t going to happen like you expect them to, regardless of how good your planning has been. Nothing is going to go according to your plan, and it’s highly likely that very few things will be easy. But it’s okay, because you’ll pull yourself up every time and figure out what you want out of life and how to get it. Everything around you will keep moving, so you best keep up. I know that one-year-ago-Jessie probably wouldn’t listen to today-Jessie’s advice, but maybe someone else out there will. If you are listening – don’t worry; you’re going to be fine.

Thanks for coming along for the ride during my first year out of college! It’s been so fun getting to share some of my experiences with the Ripon community. Don’t forget, if you’re ever in the DC area, drop me a line! My apartment will be glad to extend a warm, Ripon welcome – maybe we’ll even special order some Rippin’ Good Cookies for you!

Jessie M. Lillis ’13
[email protected]

To read more alumni news, click here.


Related Posts

Ed Fruth, 1912, student and adult headshots

Edward Fruth, Class of 1912, elected to basketball coach Hall of Fame

E. D. (Edward Daniel) Fruth, Ripon College Class of 1912, has been elected to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Fruth was at […]

Brad Balof, class of 2000, at rigth with his husband, Jason.

Struggles early shaped Brad Balof ’00 into activist, advocate

“I came to Ripon knowing that I’m gay,” says Brad Balof ’00. “While many would think moving to a small town would be a step […]

Frankie Reynolds ’14 with wife, Liz, and son, Hank.

A student leader at Ripon, Reynolds ’14 remains active in LGTBQ+ advocacy

Frankie Reynolds ’14, more commonly known as Rosette Reynolds during her time as a student at Ripon College, “came out” as a high school freshman […]

Photo of Ripon College alumna Lois Van Leer, Class of 1978

“I was terrified” — Van Leer ’78 describes being gay in the 1970s

The Rev. Lois Van Leer attended Ripon at a time when gay students had very few outlets to discuss their sexuality. She realized as a […]