Life After College: For the Class of 2015

I wrote this post a year ago after talking to a friend who had recently graduated college. Hopefully, the class of 2015 can benefit from these words, as well. Welcome to adulthood. It’s not nearly as bad as it seems.

I am not sure who coined the phrase, “College is the best time of your life,” but I have never been one to agree with it.

I sat down today for tea (very grown up, right?) with a friend, and we got to talking about post grad life. We soon found that we had experienced many of the same things, setbacks, disappointments, growing pains and a surprising amount of happiness on the other side of growing up.

Now don’t get me wrong…..I loved college. Everything from the people you meet, the places you travel and all the experiences that only a college setting can provide are priceless. Some of my most stressful college times, like bad roommate situations, crazy parties or astronomically priced texts books have now become some of my funniest memories to look back on.


(Photo via

The four years I spent in college, were pivotal for me. The 18-year-old girl who walked on campus was not the same person as the 21-year-old young woman that packed her bags and moved away from little Stillwater, Oklahoma. I made some of my best friends in college. I stayed up for hours studying for finals, never sure how I was going to pull off a passing grade but somehow always did. I had my first love. I landed an internship at a major magazine in New York. I won a pageant in college. I started a magazine. I met people from all over the country in college. I traveled to some of the smallest towns and some of the largest cities. I took lots of sporadic and fun road trips. I tried foods that I would have never thought to try (and even liked some). I joined a sorority and actually liked it. I started a chapter of a nonprofit organization and was able to volunteer at countless other organizations.

I can look back on that time with a smile. College was SOME of the best years of my life, but it was not THE best time of my life. Although, I truly loved my college years, I cannot and will not settle on the notion that those four years will be the best of my life. I graduated when I was 21 years old. Most people complete undergrad between the ages of 21 and 23. If the best years of my life are over after not even a quarter of a century of life, well then man…….that’s depressing.

Here’s how I look at it: Each chapter of life should get progressively better because you grow. Every season we are in will have its ups and downs. Post grad life is full of them, from moving away from home, bills, jobs woes, adjusting to a new city and meeting new people. Sometimes it can get overwhelming. Sometimes all those newly found adult responsibilities can be hard to balance, but lets not forget that college had its share of problems too. Think overpriced books, finals stress and weight gain just to name a few. With the downsides of post grad life, don’t forget the good: independence, travel, meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones, career advancement and did I mention freedom and independence already?

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Never get so stuck in one season of life that you cannot enjoy the present one.”

I never want to get stuck in one season that it stops me from enjoying today. For now, I am a young adult living in her post grad years. I am in my early twenties still trying to figure things out. I have bills to pay, a job to go to in the morning and dinner to get on the table. Yes, it can be stressful, but I wouldn’t change it. I am sure that when I am in my thirties and have kids crying, laundry to finish and diapers to change, I’ll look back on my twenties and miss them, but I also hope that I will be content with all the blessings that season provides.

Today, my friend and I will were able to rehash our college years and all the highs and lows. I am so happy that she is working in a career that energizes her and brings her to life. I am even happier that she has grown since college and has become this radiant, young woman. That is my wish for myself and every twenty something. That life after the college years only gets better.

I hope things aren’t easy for you. I hope you are challenged, pressed and pushed to grow. I hope that when opportunities for new things come knocking on your door that you take them. I hope that you are constantly learning, changing and growing into a better version of yourself.

So for all you college students who are cringing at the idea of graduating and leaving the college bubble, take it from this post grad. Life is what you make it. Life after college will be as good as you make it. Don’t spend years of your life trying to relive the college life. When it’s over, accept it and gracefully close that door.

To all you current, post grads, maybe some of you are job hunting or others are getting settled in new jobs and cities, remember to enjoy this time. Heck yea, it’s hard! But enjoy this season for what it is: one with ups and downs. A season that brings laughter, tears and a chance to grow at every turn.



Beauty and Brains: One 20 Something’s Story

A big part of the twenties is going after your dreams despite uncertainty. Kiana Billups’ story is not short on obstacles, but this twenty something has shown adversity who’s boss. An advocate for ending sex slavery and a beauty pageant novice, Billups is a 5 foot feisty, young woman with big dreams to make a difference. With her heart and persistence, I am certain that this twenty something will make a lasting impact wherever she goes.


Getting to know you a little better……

How old are you? 24
Where are you from? I was born in Washington but raised in Tulsa/Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

Where did you attend college and what did you study? I am receiving a major in International and Area Studies and a minor in Nonprofit Organizational Studies from the University of Oklahoma in May 2014.

Describe yourself in 5 words.
Charismatic, compassionate, funny, bold, and witty.

What is the biggest lesson your parents have taught you?
To follow my heart. Your mind can reason you out of doing things that you were meant to do, but your heart will always tell you the truth if you’ll stop thinking long enough to listen.

What is your favorite quote?
“Keep moving forward.” Walt Disney

If you could pick a character from your favorite piece of fiction who you relate most to, who would it be and why?
Her name is Celaena. She’s an assassin with a secret past and huge future. I identify her because she’s slightly vain about her looks but is willing to get dirty to dispense justice. She hates slavery! Which I love because my platform, “1 person sold, 1 person told” is about bringing awareness to modern-day slavery. She loves very hard and very true. And that’s me. I love with everything I have and am completely honest about whom all that that encompasses. She also can fight quicker and fiercer than the wind and KICKS SERIOUS BUTT!

Who is one person who always makes you smile?
Just one?! Ummm my mom? Best friend Kalaya? Little sister Nicole?

What are your career goals?
In an ideal world, Anderson Cooper or Diane Sawyer finally retire and I take over their jobs. JK…but seriously…quit already. I’d love to be an international correspondent for CNN. God has placed on my heart to start a shelter in the U.S. that caters to boys and girls of human trafficking. It would be a place for them to receive aftercare and counseling, life skills and an education, and love. My main focus would be to gift them with the resources to get them successfully integrated back into society.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Keep moving forward.” Walt Disney

On to the more serious stuff……
Why did you decide to get involved in pageantry?

My first pageant ever was Miss Black Oklahoma USA in 2009. I did it because I had a platform I was incredibly passionate about and it seemed like a fun way to earn scholarship money. Later on, I competed in Miss Black and Gold at OU and then again in Miss Black Oklahoma USA in 2012, where I got 3rd runner-up. I honestly thought I was done with pageants after that. But I was offered the chance to chair the Miss Black OU pageant and coach contestants in Miss Black and Gold, Miss Krimson and Kreme, and Miss Black OU. I love it! I caught the fever. It’s such a good feeling to be able to watch young women grow and become aware their strengths and the world around them.

Talk a little bit more about your pageant title as Miss Black Oklahoma US Ambassador.
This title was honestly given to me by God. Having competed in pageants before and not walking away with the crown, I had decided to help on the outside but not to compete again. The national director called me and God gave me INSTANT confirmation and peace about accepting the title. Next thing I know, I’m staring at the crown and sash in the mirror—something that I’ve longed to see for 6 years. I appreciate the title of “ambassador” because I always been interested in what’s going on in the world outside of the U.S. At one point I dreamed of pursuing a career as a U.S. Ambassador to a foreign country. With this title, I am an ambassador for freedom, love and justice.

When is your upcoming pageant? Where?
I compete for the title of Miss Black US Ambassador May 15-19 in Atlanta, Georgia.

What is your platform?

My platform is “1 person sold, 1 person told.” The focus is to bring awareness to modern-day slavery in all of its forms: domestic servitude, labor trafficking and the most widely known, sex trafficking. I know I have been given this particular title in Oklahoma for a reason. Due to Oklahoma’s many interstates, it has become a major destination and travel route for human traffickers. I hope to rectify that by bringing awareness to the people it affects, that is everyone. This crime knows no boundaries and possesses no prejudices.

What is it about fighting to modern-day slavery that compels you to champion the cause?
On this earth, God gave us two major purposes.
1) love Him
2) love each other as we do ourselves.
Slavery is the ANTI-love. It’s the possession of another person. Traffickers take the person and turn them into a shell. They abuse them, overwork them, lie to them…etc. How can I not champion this cause?

In your future career, in what ways do you hope to involved with this cause?
I stated earlier that I wanted to be a international correspondent on CNN. Well, to be more specific, I want to use the media that we use for inane, pointless information to bring awareness to the 27 million slaves in the world. I want to use the TV, radio, Facebook, Twitter, my blog and everything else in between to spread awareness. Eventually I will open a shelter that will care for girl and boys (yes boys are trafficked too) and help them be reintegrated into society.

If you win the pageant, how do you plan to leverage your title and the leadership of the position with educating people about modern-day slavery?
It is my goal to launch small-scale media campaigns of videos, fliers, speaking events, concerts, and fashion shows to not only spread the facts on slavery but also to raise money for the education law enforcement and the aftercare of victims.

What has being involved in the pageant world taught you? How has it changed you?
It’s taught me the meaning of “faith without works is dead.” I have really had to use my faith on this journey to the crown. But I’ve also had to step out with that faith and do my part. It’s caused me to grow by leaps and bounds. I used to be a HUGE procrastinator and this alleviated that. The pageant world has taught me to use my resources. Ever hear the phrase, “You have not because you ask not?” Well that definitely is true. I’ve learned that people are willing to help you. All you need do is ask. I’ve never had an issue with ambition, but the pageantry has taught me to focus that ambition and be realistic about my goals.

As an upcoming, twenty something, what is the greatest lesson you have learned so far?
KEEP MOVING FORWARD. This journey is SUPER hard and it will only get harder if you dwell on past mistakes. What’s in the past is in the past. Let it go and let God help you move into your future. Don’t be afraid of being uncomfortable. In fact, if your completely comfortable with your status and dreams in life, dream bigger. Get up and move forward.

What advice do you have for other twenty somethings with big dreams?
Don’t let the dreams get bigger than the God who gave them to you. Dream as big as you can! But remember that God is the one who will give you the strength to accomplish these big dreams.

– Stephkt