The Gray Zone


Graduating from Mississippi State University with a degree in biological sciences has left Cooper Powers of Biloxi, MS, seeking inner peace as he searches for a job to begin his career. Photo by Shelley Powers

How to Not Go Crazy While Waiting to Start Your Career

By Cooper Powers

The interim between graduating from college and starting down a long and, hopefully, illustrious career path is analogous to children waiting for Christmas morning. You’ve put in the good work all year; you know rewards are imminent; but you seem to have trouble filling the hours until the magic moment arrives.

As I journeyed back to my original homestead (my parents’ house) after the caps had been thrown, I could feel my angst begin to build.

For what reason?

A loving set of parents and a wonderful roof awaited me at the end of my four-hour drive; but, I was beset upon by a sense of gloom and self defeat that hung over me like a cartoon rain cloud. It’s as if everyone was telling me the world was my oyster, and suddenly I was allergic to shellfish.

See, I’d expected a job immediately after college. I had grand notions that my parents’ modest mailbox would be positively overflowing in a Hogwarts-like fashion with job offers for me. But I quickly learned that this was farcical.

Unwavered, I made filling out job applications my daily operation.

I soon realized that the empty hours still far outweighed the empty blanks on job forms. This quotidian routine was what I was dreading most, and I didn’t even know it.

For the first time in several years, I was having trouble keeping myself entertained, and it bothered me. Finding things to do was a non-issue at college. Even if my friends and colleagues were unavailable in school, it was such a simple task to approach a random stranger to strike up a conversation. They were my age, in my town, and typically gung-ho people.

In contrast, my hometown (a “Certified Retirement City”) has less of the local flair that makes being my age so, well, fun. And for a wanderlust like myself, a sleepy hometown is a stark reminder that where you’re from is where you’ll stay, if your situation remain static.

But, regardless of how I crave fresh stamps in a passport I don’t even have, I still have these hours to deal with and have had to find some ways to cope with the doldrums of living at home while I’m planning my life. I’ve never had the burden of money to burn a hole in my pocket, so, for the weary minded who consistently seeks stimulation, these activities have been able to offer me the solace and (frugal) reprieve, I desire.


Seriously. Writing was never a fully established item in my repertoire and I decided to flesh it out (Thanks to Sunnyhuckle for letting me develop a passion of mine). Writing definitely takes time, so that was a huge box to check. Settings need detail; denouement needs resolution. The opportunity to pull my dried-out eyeballs away from the blank job applications on the screen is welcomed and, just as much so, is the chance to dive right back into a story when the muse is cooperative. As I see it, exploring new realms of storytelling—fiction and non—is a great exercise in communication. I’m no scholar, though; and, while I’m certainly not going to write an “Infinite Jest” anytime soon, finding this hobby has been crucial in me keeping my sanity.


As I mentioned before, it was extremely easy to find someone with whom to take a bike ride or midnight stroll in a college town—meaning I was much more active while at school. My parents are older and still remain active, but I’m almost positive a game of ultimate frisbee or a pick-up soccer game is beyond their current faculties to accommodate. So, I decided to do my own bodyweight workout. Planning the routine is very rewarding once the sweat starts flowing; as is tracking the results. The numbers—waistline, rep count, and otherwise—are a great way for me to keep my mind and body busy. Working out is interesting if you spend a lot of time in your own head. It’s a great opportunity to clear my mind and focus on the now. I’d imagine it’s about as close to Zen as you can get without having to balance pebbles near running water. Admittedly, letting a “Rocky” theme play while spending a few minutes viewing my hard-earned results in the mirror is also a gratifying payoff.


Reading is the fine sand that fills in all the other gaps. Television is nice; but, there are only so many episodes of Quantum Leap and The Andy Griffith Show (as I mentioned before, I have older parents) I can tolerate before I can feel my gray matter shriveling. There are reasons why written word has moved and shaken the world and continues to today. One can lose himself in a book, nay an entirely new world. Not only am I entertained when I’m enthralled by a page-turner, but I’m also making mental notes of style, words, and characters to use in my own writing. I pace myself; however, I’m certainly not going to tackle “Atlas Shrugged” or Mark Twain’s biography anytime soon. Still, Sherlock Holmes and other works of fiction await to be absorbed.

Time is a precious commodity. The best way I’ve found to spend it during this little bridge between education and employment is in self-improvement. It can be so easy to lose heart and motivation when time slogs on like a heady dream; but, I know this: By developing my talents and improving health, I will only have more of a head start in whatever I choose to pursue. I’m becoming more than the sum of my parts and am ever-preparing for the real world.

I’m making decisions to not sit on my hands but to use them to be the best I know I can be: a college grad who is stuck in neutral but who has the knowledge that he is only getting better with each passing second.

It’s an invigorating sensation, and, wouldn’t you know it, it makes time fly.

Scientist_PowersCooper Powers is a graduate of Mississippi State University with a degree in biological sciences. He’s currently working part time as a microbiology technical assistant at Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs and is seeking full-time employment as a forensic DNA analyst/forensic biology tech.

(Editor’s Note: Potential employers may e-mail Sunnyhuckle to reach Mr. Powers…we believe you’d be crazy not to.)

About Sunnyhuckle

Sunnyhuckle is an online magazine dedicated to enriching the heart, mind, soul, and body through the sharing of stories, insights, thoughts, ideas, and perspectives.

There are 5 comments

  1. Sue

    Mighty, MIGHTY PROUD of our FINE SON! He tolerates us so well and loves us even more! We wish him such achievement in his chosen field and ‘to date’ the sum total of Cooper Powers is a resounding 100%!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Karen D'Avignon

    Cooper, I LOVED, LOVED reading your journey and determination. You are making such wise choices as you seek employment in your career field.
    All the Best and ready to hear what’s next!
    Ms. Karen

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mswvjmpr

    Cooper, can I just say I love/covet/semi-stalk your family. I even go so far as to consider myself part of it (talk to your sis-in-law about how that works…take notes, it’s kinda confusing) yet as tenuous as that connection may be, I cling to it like a burr to wool socks. As an extended family member, I would like to extend an open invite to visit us in the Seattle area any time you might feel the need to spread those wings, seek west coast inspiration, or even revel in some good ol’ Pikes Place Roast on its home turf. Failing those attempts at luring you, I do have three boys who received air-soft guns for Christmas and love to brag of battle scars…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. sue powers

      Gotta say mswvjmpr, not only was your comment AWESOME but your blog was outstanding, too! Enjoyed it tremendously, love, your, mom?, gmom? aunt? cousin? whatever!! A standing invite is yours to collect on the southern coast of the good old USA:) sue powers

      Liked by 1 person

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