I never thought I’d be writing a letter to college graduates, but considering the world that we live in today, and the many terrifying fears I remember going through in the day of and weeks/months/year after graduation, I think it’s definitely more than time for me to plunge into this.
I’ll lead with a disclaimer: take these nuggets of advice and see whether they apply to your life. Not everything will. I’m not a fan of writing blanket statements, and hell, it’s okay if you’re not in the place many are today. If so, kudos!
1) I know everyone and their mother is already asking what your next steps are, and it’s probably reached a fever pitch, now that you’ve got your diploma in hand. Here’s the truth: if you don’t know yet, that’s okay. One of life’s biggest secrets is that even the people asking you don’t know what their next steps are. Hell, sometimes they’re just asking in a desperate attempt to get some sort of advice or validation about their lives.
Another secret: once you graduate college, life is fluid. You don’t have to do what others are telling you. Which leads me to my next point…
2) Everyone has a plan for your life post-graduation – but the only one that has the real power is you. I get it – I’m the oldest child of parents who have big, big dreams for my siblings and myself. I faced a lot of heated discussions the weeks leading up to and following graduation, all of which had the same tone: why aren’t you doing anything with your life?
Know what that means? It means that your value is inherently determined only if you’re doing what your parents/relatives/friends/strangers deem to be appropriate. And that’s a load of crap.
It’s a known fact that I worked at Princeton University for two years after graduation, but the thing I didn’t tell those who knew me was that I worked in Staples, struggling to apply to jobs and keep my head up, for the summer following graduation. I had even put in an application for a second job at Chipotle when I received the job offer from Princeton.
But I was okay with it – even if those who knew, weren’t – because I knew that there’d be a different future out there.
3) Your life in the year after graduation does not determine your worth or future or opportunities. Yeah, we all know about that wunderkind that’s got four incredible job offers, acceptance at five Ivy Leagues and a Truman Fellow. Want to know something? They’re just as unsure and insecure about what’s going to happen next, just as you are. And that’s okay.
The reason “roadmaps” after college don’t really work is because – to be frank – you don’t know how your self and life will shift and morph and grow post-graduation. What intrigued you during college won’t make you blink in the year after, or five years after. I graduated with a minor in education studies.
Newsflash: I haven’t really used it since then, but that’s okay. I take it for what it was.
4) It’s okay to be afraid of what happens next. I’m going to repeat it, just in case you haven’t really understood it: it is more than alright to be afraid of what life looks like ahead. The biggest crime you could commit in this scenario is to let that fear hold you immobile, hold you back from trying. Don’t let that happen.
Throw yourself into things that just might pique your interest. Try out that internship, pick up a job, do what you can to remind yourself of your value – but don’t give up. Don’t let the fear swallow you up – and if it does, confide in a friend you trust, a mentor – or a therapist.
5) The best part about being done with college is you now have the ability to make your life truly your own. Regardless of whether you’re back living with your parents, crashing with friends, or living on your own, this is it.
This is life. You’re in full control.
No matter what people might tell you/advise you/berate you/try to drag you down – you’re the one in the driver’s seat. Never let someone strip you of that power. You are incredible, no matter how you might feel right now. You have your whole future ahead of you, to make of it what you will.
And that, that is truly empowering. I promise you.
But sometimes it’ll be lonely – which is okay. Hit me up on Twitter if you want to talk things through – even though I graduated years ago, I believe in helping those who need it.