The Post-Grad Experience as Told Through Music (Specifically Relient K, Switchfoot and Beyonce)


Almost a year ago I graduated from one of the best places in the world, Warren Wilson College. Today is Wilson’s annual work day, where students gather to work on the campus. My former roommate and soul sister texted me at 8am this morning freaking out that it was work day, that we weren’t there and that it had been almost a year since we graduated.
As I read her text and April came into view I have to admit it’s extremely hard to believe that a year’s passed since I walked across a stage to receive my diploma. But more than that it’s hard to believe that I’ve been through so many internal evolutions since graduation. Not big, life-altering changes, just small little progressions in my own psyche. And then I thought maybe I’m not alone in feeling this way, maybe the post-grad experience is one of the most confusing and liberating experiences of them all.
So this is for all my grads coming up on their year anniversary and all those eager seniors about to graduate, let’s talk about this weird in-between land and figure it out together.
First things first, I chose to use music to express my three stages of post-grad life because, well, sometimes music rips your own thoughts from your inner psyche. Secondly, this is my own internal journey so it may not apply to everyone, but I think it might apply to quite a few.
Here we go: College is a time where you have a purpose, if nothing else it’s to get your diploma. Even if you don’t have a crazy social calendar, work or join clubs, go on road trips, or anything else associated with those four glorious years, everyone shares the goal of getting that diploma.


You sweat, cry and bleed for it. Every hour of toiling over homework, every day you endure a pompous professor, every ghastly minute of finals, every conversation with your elderly relations about your major, every second of gen eds, and everything in between is all for that diploma. And I will tell you this, walking across the stage to receive it is one of the proudest moments of your life.


However, during the struggle to get there you’re not thinking about the small mountain of student loans you’re acquiring or the sharp, sharp pain of entering the real world and having to work non-stop to attempt to pay of those loans. You’re not thinking about how much rent is going to be after graduation or how much a car and insurance is going to cost. Nope, during college it’s all about that diploma.
And as I said it’s glorious when you get it, and that high lasts for about a month. After a month or so of blissful pride and well deserved relaxation, you come to realize that your old summer job isn’t going to pay all these adult bills so you just start looking for work. On top of that you have the few friends who managed to nab a well-paying job that relates to their degree right after graduation, and effectively it’s adding insult to injury.
So you get a job that you don’t completely hate and actually pays your bills. You get another little high from being able to pay for everything and maybe having some splurge money at the end of the month. This high lasts another couple of months and then the mundanity sets in. On top of this the friends you grew so close to over the past four years, the people you see as family, are spread out across the country and it’s a struggle to maintain friendship across thousands of miles.


It’s at this point, where the post-grad funk sets in, or as I’ll call it the More than Useless stage.

The key lyrics from this song being, I feel like I would like to be somewhere else doing something that matters and sometimes I think that I’m not any good at all, sometimes I wonder why I’m even here at all?

For me, during the More than Useless stage I literally questioned everything I was doing. I didn’t know how to use the skills or qualities I’d gained through my time at Wilson, I didn’t know how to make money in my field, I didn’t know how to maintain my friendships, and I didn’t know how to regain a sense of purpose. It was also during this period when my friends, one in particular, was having similar feelings, even to the point of depression.

I honestly think this comes from the dramatic turn your life takes, from being purposeful and full of possibilities during college to being a creature of necessity and toil afterwards. No one quite prepares you for that during your college years, because it’s not a happy thought. Your professors, college staff members and academic elite want you to be full of hope and joy while you call college home, because even if they’re not saying it out loud they know what’s coming: an assault of seemingly meaningless yet all-consuming tasks, errands and ventures that exist purely to allow you to pay your bills. Things that make you fall into your bed at night, exhausted and fatigued, only to stare at the ceiling and think, this is my life?

The only thing I ever heard during my college tenure that remotely touched on this was a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace that I read during a creative non-fiction class. Here’s the audio/video of it.

Wallace’s speech talks specifically about the day in, day out aspects of life. The boring, unsexy, stressful, mundane shit that clogs up every day. It goes on to talking about the essence of life is finding moments of choosing to think on a higher level and in turn making the everyday scared. Which, trust me, I’m getting to, but in the More than Useless stage of the post-grad experience everything is just a little numbing and you’re desperately trying to hang on to who you were a few months ago on that graduation stage.

It’s a period that leaves you confused, angry, upset and vaguely resentful. After all, this isn’t what was promised during that rousing commencement speech. You hold on by a thread, a pulse in the back of your mind that bleeps along telling you it’s only a phase, that someday you can be something better.
It’s this pulse that leads to the Let it Out phase.

For me, this started around the end of September. I went to a concert with my older brother, and one of my favourite bands (Switchfoot) was playing. I hadn’t seen them perform in years, and it was one of those moments in between songs where Jon Foreman was discussing the inspiration behind their new album. “We’re talking about abundant life people,” he said to the crowd and as everyone cheered in response I thought about what that meant.
And I thought about this song, the key lyric being Are you holding on? Are you up against those ropes? Cause I know how it feels to lose hope. Are you holding in? Well come on, let it out.

The Let It Out phase is about letting out everything you’ve kept squashed inside and making conscious choices. It’s about admitting that you’re tired, pissed off and frustrated. It’s about owning the fact that you’re not the college senior or fresh graduate anymore. Instead you’re a member of the greater functioning society. A society that is crueler, tougher, blander and faster than those four years of college. But it can also be just as epic and beautiful as the college days. Now, I say all of this with a pinch of salt. The realization that I wanted to have an abundant life, that I wanted to make my post-grad self just as fulfilled and hopeful as my college self, started in September but the actions behind the thought took time.
I recognized that I needed to be grateful for the things I had in my life and for the small victories I had, but there were scattered between the mundane crap we already discussed. But I worked for the next few months I made decisions to take care of myself, to make memories, and to strive towards something better (even though I had no idea what that was yet).

I went on a trip to the West Coast with one of my best friends, I worked harder at the job that pays the bills, I started saving my money, I worked on creating a better social life, I signed up to volunteer with a writing mentoring program, I joined a gym and some other stuff too. This is obviously still a long way from where I want to be, where I thought I’d be a year after graduation, but it’s a start. That’s the point of the Let it Out phase, it’s still frustrating, you’re still falling in bed confused an exhausted but after the exhaustion, right before your eyelids close, you think I’m gonna keep working. I’m gonna keep pushing.
In my eyes, the Let it Out phase is about accepting where you are, deciding that someday (no matter how long it takes) things will change, and most importantly forgiving yourself for not being the highly successful bad-ass you thought you’d be at this point. And forgiveness, especially when you’re forgiving yourself, is a powerful thing. For me forgiveness and choosing to make the most of this confusing stage of life led to the Grown Woman phase.

We all know Beyonce is a huge advocate for women in general and for women loving themselves so this song just make so much sense for this next phase. The key lyrics being They love the way I walk,‘Cause I walk with a vengeance, And they listen to me when I talk ’cause I ain’t pretending, It took a while, now I understand just where I’m goin’, I know the world and I know who I am, It’s ’bout time I show it

Now, like the lyrics say, this stage took some time. I honestly had this realization about two weeks ago and that’s when I started thinking about writing this piece. I had worked an opening shift at my restaurant, spent the day smiling and kissing customer ass, to get home and decide to go to the gym. I went to a Zumba class and then went on a variety of exercise machines. There is one machine that works your back muscles, where you pull down handles from above your head and push them back up and down. I made myself increase my weight limit and as I pushed through the burn Grown Woman played on my ipod.

And thus I started grinning like an idiot, sufficiently freaking out the other gym attendees. I grinned because on that machine as I sweated in uncomfortable places and my arms burned I realized I should be proud of myself. I realized I was a grown up, and I know that sounds cheesy as hell, but it’s too true. There comes a point in every post-grad student’s life where you just sort of accept that college is done, and yes it’s monumentally terrifying but at the same time it’s immensely satisfying. My life is not anything like it was at college, and yes I would gladly rewind time and have my four years all over again, but the point is I am also damn proud of who I am now (more or less).

I’ve spent the time since my graduation helping my family, fostering new relationships, creating roots in the city I now call home, creating experiences, and working my butt off so I can provide for myself. That in itself is a worthy achievement and something that college does not prepare for you at all. I take pride in the fact that I can take care of myself, and can strive towards my grander goals. It’s an everyday achievement that millions of people do every day but we never celebrate it, because it seems small in comparison to the grandeur we were promised during a commencement speech. Yet grandeur is built upon the victories of everyday living, and this phase of the post-grad life is exactly that. It’s me laying down the foundations of my life beyond a four-year degree, while still choosing to take everything I learnt there with me. It’s what a grown woman does.

So yes, I’m a grown woman and that my seem silly, but if Queen B can write a song about it I think I’m allowed to wholeheartedly embrace that stage of my life as well.

It’s not everything I wished for when I graduated, and definitely not where I thought I’d be at this point, but that’s okay. I have a lifetime to fulfill all the dreams I had when I walked across that graduation stage and I’m not wasting another moment feeling guilty, angry or depressed for not being there yet.

This grown woman is on her way and she’s walking with a vengeance. So watch out big, bad world, I’m coming for you.

Dogwood Confessions


I was recently in Asheville, NC for my homecoming at Warren Wilson College. It was the first time I’d been back since graduating in May and it was quite a surreal experience as I was back at a place that has meant so much to me over the past four years. I was also able to see many of my good friends who came from all over the country to be back for homecoming so overall it was pretty wonderful.

And one of my favorite parts of visiting Wilson is being able to go to an area of the campus called Dogwood. Dogwood is a hill at the back side of campus that looks over the valley, our farm, the historic white barn and the mountains. Throughout my years at Wilson Dogwood was a haven for me. When I was stressed, wanted to be by myself or needed to relax I would go there and breathe.

I’m not a huge nature person, indeed often I’d rather be in a downtown area full of technology but Dogwood is one of the few places I feel at home in nature. So when I was there I wrote a short creative non-fiction piece that I wanted to share with all of you. Enjoy and no stealing 🙂


Dogwood Confessions

#1 – I like wearing short, lacy dresses in green, luscious fields.

#2 – I miss the mountains; the enormity of them, the darkness of their creases and the way they drape one upon another.

#3- There are more cows than people here and I’m invading their home.

#4 – Wilson couples still perplex me, with their long hair, skinny bodies and swaggering manners.

#5 – The scent of cow pies, impending rain and wild flowers is actually quite sweet.

#6 – Crickets, although natural musicians, are nothing compared to Ed Sheeran’s voice caressing me through my phone’s speakers.

#7 – This long field with those particular minty green mountains in front of me still feels like a home.

#8 – The Wilson couple, up the field, under an oak tree, are not looking at the mountains.

#9 – The imminent black storm cloud stealing the sun’s rays doesn’t scare me.

#10 – I’m quite happy. Here, in this typical dogwood moment.

The Post-Graduate Project (And It’s Pretty Great)


Hello Big Bad World!

 graduation from stage

(Photo Taken of My Graduating Class from Stage by Wyatt Pace)

So it’s official, I’m a college graduate! I’m actually having difficulty processing that after four years of working my butt off through two majors, 100 plus hours of service, a catering job and working my way up to the role of Editor-in-Chief of my college newspaper, and a very active and fulfilling social life, I’m done.

I’ve earned my degrees and had four amazing years. It literally seems like only a few months ago that my parents dropped me off outside of my freshman dorm and I had to say goodbye. But it’s been four years and I’ve grown so much in that time.

I’ve become the woman I (more or less) always wanted to be. And while a large part of me wants to deny I’ve graduated and sneak back into classes in August, to feel like I’m still part of my amazing college, Warren Wilson, the other part of me is calling me to run forward into this new world and new stage of my life.

To embrace everything college and Wilson specifically has taught me and use it to create motion in my life. To apply everything four years of studying, working, serving, partying and loving has taught me in order to make the next parts of my life the best yet.

That being said I may only be a few days out of college but I already have another project and it’s a great one. When I was thinking about this year and how many changes I was going through (with graduation and becoming an American citizen earlier in the year) I wanted to do something that not only reflected that change but also served as an ode to where I am in my life and where I’ve chosen to be.

I didn’t chose to come to this country when I was a child. I was brought by my family but as I’ve grown into the woman I am today I’ve made the decision to call this country home. I will always be English and will always consider England a home but America is where I’ve chosen to be now, where I’ve chosen to create a life and where hopefully one day I will raise a family.

And America is a big country. I’ve been blessed to experience living in two different states, Florida and North Carolina, but there is so many different place and cultures within America’s borders. That is why I want to Meet America, in its entirety.

Therefore my sister and I have created Meeting America. Meeting America is an interactive book project centered around a 45 day road trip, which will hopefully happen in July. During this 45 day road trip I will be interviewing people in each stop, sort of like Humans of New York but the entire country, and my sister will be taking photographic portraits of each person I interview.

meeting america logo

I will be asking questions like what does being an American mean to you, what is the greatest strength of this country and what is its greatest weakness? If you could change anything what would it be? What’s your happiest memory? And so on and so forth. Interviews are very organic things, therefore the questions will change with each interview. I’m incredibly excited to get to know so many people in so many corners of this country.

road trip layout

After the road trip ends we will compile all the portraits and interviews into a book format that will be a testament to the diversity, frailty and beauty of these United States.

HOWEVER in order for this project to happen I need your help. The cost of setting off around the country and producing a book is not small so we’ve set up an Indie GO GO campaign to help fund the project.

You can check it out HERE

As a supporter you will help us design this trip, meaning you will become a voter and get to vote on where we go and what we do at each stop. We will also be attempting to volunteer at each stop so your votes will also help us decide on where we should be volunteering.

In order to make the trip and the production of the book happen we need at least $5,000, which I know sounds like a lot but the great thing is that there is strength in numbers.

That’s 500 people supporting us with $10

Or 100 people supporting us with $50

Or 50 people supporting us with $100

Or 10 people supporting us with $500

And every supporter gets something I return, check out the awesome perks HERE

This project is very dear to my heart and I honestly think it can be a unique, authentic and moving portrait of the American people that has never really be done before. However in order for it to happen we need the funding.

Anything will help, $10 can go a long way, and by becoming a supporter you will be helping to create this project and in turn create a book that helps to show just how stunning the people of this evolving country truly are.

Plus you will have my gratitude forever and ever. And that’s pretty great.

Become a supporter HERE


Until Next Time,

Be Blessed, Stay Strong and Never Give Up,


P.S – If you need further convincing of how excited I am about this project, watch the video below.

What Am I Doing After Graduation?


Cracked Lips a.k.a Snow Days in College


So today my college, Warren Wilson, in Asheville, NC is enjoying the benefits of Storm Leon. He’s a temperamental son of gun and to say today is chilly would be a vast understatement. My college campus is blanketed with snow and when I woke up to go to work this morning the pesky flakes felt the need to land in my eyeballs and after my water aerobics class  my wet hair froze.

Classes have been canceled along with my work meetings and car crashes are littering the icy roads. It’s a crazy day and I say all of this to in turn say Snow is beautiful and one of natures wonders, but dear lord its side effects can be messy.

This snowy day inspired me to share something I wrote a couple weeks back when I was in the midst of another snow storm a.k.a The Polar Vortex. (Please keep in mind I wrote this right after rushing into my apartment from the frigid cold, so be gentle when judging.)

Now North Carolina did not have it as bad as many other places in the states but it was still unpleasant. So, please, enjoy this little snippet. If, like me, you’re surrounded by snow today please find some companionship in the words and know that you’re not alone in enduring the elements. And if you live in a non snowy region of the country/world tilt your head back, enjoy the sun kissing your skin and be thankful your lips aren’t cracking 🙂

Cracked Lips

Red nose. Numb, cracked lips. Knees knocking. Oh so very cold. Hurts inside like being struck over and over with a knife.

Do not like.

Howling wind pushes the ice into my veins. Disappear further into layers of feather padded jackets, fuzzy hats, knitted gloves and white flakes. Not to be seen again until the longed for thaw.

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed, Stay Strong and Never Give Up (And Stay Warm),

Grace Hatton

Six Things the Warren Wilson MFA Residency Taught Me


#1 – That I Want to Earn My MFA One Day

            One of the reasons I applied to this residency was to get a taste of the MFA experience, so to speak, in the hopes that it would confirm my inclination that I wanted to earn my MFA after my undergraduate creative writing career at Wilson comes to a close. I had already begun an application to Oxford University for their Mst program (an English equivalent to an MFA) when this program began but I knew I could always pull that application. However after experiencing these nine days of lectures, classes and readings I’m sure I will not be pulling that application and I will be continuing my application for the Mst as well as other American programs. This has been a little writing oasis for me. I adore the undergraduate creative writing program and I’m extremely grateful for it, however as an undergraduate I’m not solely focused on my creative writing due to gen ed classes, classes for my other, work requirements, service requirements and the desire to have some kind of social life. An MFA on the other hand is a time to solely focus on the work of creative writing. To not have to think about multiple classes and subjects, but to spend time honing and becoming a master of that one skill is truly a beautiful thing. Just being around that kind of intense study and focus has made me thoroughly excited for my own MFA experience that who knows, if everything works out, may be happening in September.


#2 – That Writers Love Artists

            Last year my painting teacher told me I had two lovers, art and writing, and one day I would have to choose one over the other. I cried that day. I have always been a firm believer in all art forms, visual, performance and the written word and how all of these forms can work together in harmony. To hear my painting teacher say I had to be one type of the artist or the other broke my heart and I decided I was going to prove I could do both with equal passion and dedication. This past semester I began my senior art project, won best in painting in the senior art show and was accepted into this class. Art and writing are two halves of my soul and in the outside of myself I see them as siblings. Obviously they are very different with different skills and attributes but they come from the same gene pool. That all being said it thrilled my little heart to hear so many of the lecturers use the process of creating visual art as an analogy for creating the written word. Additionally all the quotes from artists like Picasso and Monet, especially in C.J Hribal’s lecture, gave me the Goosebumps because I understand and have been in the thick of both creative processes. The intention behind each form is practically identical and the obsession, as C.J pointed out, required for both is equal but as Logenbach pointed out at the beginning of the residency each medium has its out nuances and soul. This reoccurring theme of tying visual and written art together throughout this residency has been a boost for me and reminded me how happy I am to be studying both of these things at this fine institution.


#3 – That there is An Infinite Amount of Things to Read (And Attempting to Read Them Will Make Me a Better Writer)

            My notebook is full of authors and stories mentioned throughout the residency that I haven’t read but know I should. I haven’t always been the best at reading outside of class assigned work, but this residency has shown me that if I want to continue to produce work and be up to date with all the themes and developments within the profession I’ve chosen to pursue I better become a more industrious reader. I’m thrilled though by all the suggestions I’ve received and I can only hope I find the time within the semester to read all of them.

#4- That Form is an Organic, Evolving and a Discussion Worthy Thing

            C.J’s lecture on the novella and the panel on non-fiction really showed me how silly it is to be confined to a form. Yes we all have forms we prefer to work in, but they shouldn’t restrict us from branching out. Many of these lectures have also showed me that throughout history it’s by people pushing the boundaries of genre and form that exciting and new things happen. And as they do we have a right to investigate and discuss them but we should never try stop this natural evolution. I also found it interesting how taboo nonfiction is within the MFA. I find nonfiction the most difficult and honest form since you have nothing to hide behind, it’s you on display for the world and not a character. Therefore I find it perplexing that there isn’t a track for nonfiction in this MFA and many MFA’s around the country.

            Sorry for that little tangent, but to bring it back to form and its organic state I loved what C.J said about length during his lecture that “I believe writers choose forms but length dictates itself, the same way water chooses its depth.” I believe this speaks to the organic nature I’m discussing. We can start off with a plan for a work but we have to be open to the works own natural adaptions and evolutions. If we try to prevent that natural progression we are not being true to the medium or our own artistic values.


#5 – That Presentation Can Make or Break a Work  

            I have never sat through so many readings before therefore I believe I’ve never really noticed this, but after experiencing this MFA I’ve come to see how important presentation is for an author. I had only previously thought of presentation as the layout on the page but after sitting through lectures and readings I now known the oral presentation of a work can make or break a thing. There were numerous readers who I’m sure if I read the work off the page I would have enjoyed but I couldn’t stand the way they were presenting the work orally. Many spoke to fast or too low and the words all ran together, thus giving me no chance to digest them. However others like David Haynes, Dean Bakopolous and Kevin Mclloy spoke with such clarity and precision that I was enthralled throughout their work and therefore I want to read more of their work outside of this program. It’s not a huge thing, but something I will definitely keep in mind for my future as a writer.


#6 – That Obsession, My Own Artistic Devotion and Aesthetic are What Ultimately Matter

            There were many technical terms thrown around this residency that I didn’t fully understand, many authors I didn’t know and many grand philosophical questions presented that I honestly didn’t care about but despite this I never felt uncomfortable or discouraged. I felt as though I was learning, which of course is the point, but beyond that throughout the lectures, readings etc I discovered that while the technical, name game and philosophical are all good the more important things are the obsession, devotion and aesthetic. Almost all of the presenters had an obsession, Mclloy with his sound, Crim with her descent into hell, Manning with his things unsaid and so on and so forth. Many of these authors on this residency have found a particular aspect of the art that they obsess over and more than that they obsess over the art in general and I think it’s that obsession that creates great authors and artists. The obsession in turn creates this furious drive to explore and push and create.

            You’re always thinking about the next story, the next way you can push boundaries and incorporate the nuances you’re enthralled by. And then the obsession and the drive meld to create a particular aesthetic in an artist’s work and that is what creates something beautiful and different from peers. I suppose that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned. I’ve always known I need to be persistent (as far as creating work) to be successful. But now I think I know I need to push beyond mere persistence in the production of work and push into the persistence of challenging myself. I need to be persistent in becoming obsessed and devoted to pushing themes within my work and the aesthetic I use to present those themes. I don’t have to try fit into something. Indeed this MFA has shown me that it’s better to try break then fit. It’s better to push then just create the same. And in that process I’m probably going to create work I hate but I might also create something entirely new and beautiful .After hearing all the amazing and experienced authors at this residency I somehow feel more confident in my journey as a writer.  I feel as though I’ve been given tools and pathways to become a better and more honest writer.

* I wrote this as my evaluation of what I learned during the 2014 Winter Residency of the Warren Wilson MFA program. I wrote it for the undergraduate class that accompanied the residency.