I recently had dinner with a former, student-turned-good-friend, who is about to graduate next month. She was in DC for a few days, and between her visit schedule and my continued attempts to figure out this new city, we met and caught up over dinner. Amidst war stories on love and life, and a dip into current events and politics, I knew one thing was missing from our conversation: the individual in front of me would be a college graduate in less than 30 days.
As a higher education professional by trade, I knew graduation was near. May is upon us and college students everywhere are experiencing their “lasts” and “never agains” and “I can’ts.” I tried my hardest to refrain from forcing the conversation (preparation, reflection, anticipation, procrastination) upon her, though to my surprise, she brought it up in the most casual manner.
“And, this whole, I’m-almost-graduating-Holy-shit, transition has actually not been all that bad. I think I’m ready.”
This came out of nowhere.
“Tell me more,” I responded, as best and as counselor-like as possible.
“I mean, I’m sad and all of that, but I’m ready. And I’m proud of myself and all I have accomplished.”
I agreed and validated her, and not even because I am supposed to as a friend and fan, but mostly because she was absolutely right. She really did have a lot to be proud of, and no amount of training or theory or literature can provoke students in such a way. For that, I was left thankful.
I walked home, pondering our conversation and thinking about the hundreds of thousands of brave souls who, too, are in this moment of transition. And as I took a moment to honor these individuals and all of their accomplishments and accolades, I also jotted down a few notes. Just as I addressed those entering college just last semester, consider this my gift, my love letter to all those about to take the plunge from college and into the big, scary, real world.
Dear About-To-Be College Graduates,
So, you’re graduating…
To start, you should note, ‘back home’ is back, and you’re moving forward. Forward.
You’re going to have feelings, and those feelings are okay. Furthermore, some of these feeling may come and go, and some might appear while grocery shopping, taking a shower, or in my case, at my graduation party the morning of graduation as I sobbed through a speech in front of my 30 closest friends, family, and university staff.
“I’m fine,” I promised.
And that was ok.
It you’re not ok. That’s ok, too.
But some of you will not have feelings. Your friends will melt down around you, and you’ll be confused, assuring, “It’ll be ok.” Don’t forget, you’re processing this on your own terms. You’re okay too.
Moving forward, you’re going to get an apartment. And for some of you, you’re going to cook your first meal. You will burn something. And you will be surprised by your own culinary skills, even if that means a killer grilled-cheese. Be patient. And Pinterest. Always, Pinterest.
You’re going to love jobs and you’re going to hate them. You’re also going to leave jobs. And that’s ok. You’re ok. You have permission to leave jobs, and to be annoyed with your boss, and to toast to all things, “Happy Hour.” And to do brunch. Do a lot of brunch as a, college-graduate-turned-real-world, human. There’s something healing about brunch.
And in your healing, remember there are roadblocks ahead.
Specifically, your friends will get engaged.
Prepare yourself for this reality.
Your Facebook timeline will become filled with individuals who are changing their hair color, “trying out bangs,” traveling for work, reconnecting with old flames, and dating other friends who you didn’t know they even knew. Support them. Support curiosity. People are changing and growing, and as hopeful as we are that college is the vehicle for the greatest of change and growth, it’s not.
Many are changing.
And many, without you.
This is okay. You are still okay. And as a word of caution, do not project your own transition on others, and do not accept others’ transition as your own. Because you, too, are changing. Growing. Developing. Again, this is all okay.
And in the change which exists ahead, loss and grief will be part of the process. Both are scary and real, and both are incredibly raw. Grieve. Seriously, allow yourself to grieve.
You will lose friends and family, and others around you will too. And pain will happen. And it sucks. But never forget the people who support and love and care for you. Their love doesn’t stop after college. It just looks different. And you’re different. Receive this gift. Never forget that you’re young. And being young is still filled with insurmountable opportunities at your fingertips.
You have the world at your fingertips.
What will you do with this opportunity? How will you prepare for this dynamic endeavor? Are you scared? Good. Be scared. But be hopeful. And be curious. Lose your sense of direction and wander. Get lost. Learn. Grow. And be unapologetically you.
Graduates, as you prepare for the big day, pause and acknowledge that you are entering the world of privileged souls with a college degree. May it take you places, and may you truly understand its worth.