You did it! The moment you envisioned, the one that felt like a distant dream a few years ago, has finally arrived. You are officially a graduate of a higher learning institution.
Graduation time comes with several cliches. You will inevitably hear a speech about following your dreams. You will reminisce on all your experiences, good and bad, that led you to this moment. And a relative will gift you with Oh, The Places You'll Go. It all sounds nice and it's very comforting but after the pomp and circumstance, the anxiety sets in. What am I supposed to do now?
I remember my own graduation day perfectly. While I was excited to finally finish, I was also seriously uncertain about my future. Some of my peers had jobs lined up in big cities or even higher degrees to attain the following semester. But me? Nothing but a piece of paper.
I was more than uncertain, I was scared.
And I was jealous of everyone else who seemed to have it figured out. I kept thinking to myself, Shouldn't I have my sh*t together by now? Am I failing already?
Several years later, I realize that these feelings are totally normal. Even the ones who have it seemingly "figured out" will have doubts about their future. Now that I'm able to look back at that time, I truly appreciate my shaky transition into the real world.
As you venture into the land of adulting, there are several things you must remember:
You have all the tools necessary for success
All that you need to survive and thrive in the real world is already within you. The past few years have prepared you to handle unexpected turns and obstacles. You already know how to be resilient, how to stand up for yourself, how to be a go-getter. Don't discount the many strengths your college experience has equipped you with.
Your first job out of school will not be your best
The job of your dreams will more than likely not be your first - and that's okay. But it will be exactly the job you need at the time. Your first will be part of your story. Even if you hate it, it's an important chapter in your life because it will help ignite your true passions. Your first job teaches you what you really want out of life.
Let go of the idea of instant success
Personally, the most frustrating thing after graduation was realizing my degree in itself was not enough. For months, I applied to countless jobs without so much as a response. Hadn't I put in all the hard work? Hadn't I proven my readiness for a career?
After airing my frustrations out to my mom, she told me something I will never forget:
"You're so used to instant gratification and you have to realize life is not that way."
In school, if you study hard enough, you get an A. But in the adult world, there are million things that factor into your success. So stop resting on your laurels and remind yourself that success won't happen overnight. But it will happen in due time.
You won't have all the answers
It's okay to not know where you're going or how you will get there. You will spend your whole life trying to understand yourself and your passions. You will realize that your education is hardly over but just beginning. Self-discovery is a ongoing process and you will continue to learn about the world and yourself on a daily basis.
Stop the comparisons
Comparison is violence against the self. Another person's success has nothing to do with you and constantly measuring yourself up to others will only distract you from your purpose.
Put down Instagram. Stop checking Facebook. The grass is probably not as green as they're making it out to be anyway. Your journey is your own so savor every step it takes to get to your personal destination.
Don't limit yourself
Have you ever had a dream so big that it scared you? Good. Now dream even bigger. It's easy to stay practical and do what you think is expected of you. But you're at a time in your life where risks are meant to be taken. Move to that big city. Travel to a foreign country. Take the job that will challenge you. Don't play safe, choose adventure.
It's hard not to preoccupy yourself with what the future may hold. But there is no time more precious than the present. You just did something only 30% of the population does. So bask in the moment! Congratulate yourself. Celebrate.
Of course, your degree is more than just a piece of paper. In all its lightness, it carries heavy memories. It carries the sleepless nights, the countless hours in the library, the tears shed over grades and boys and the distance between you and your family. It even holds the happier times such as the lifelong friends you made, the professors that challenged your way of thinking, and the crazy nights you will never forget.
Your degree is a physical representation of your growth, your power, and your journey.
If I had reminded myself of these things earlier and more frequently, I would have had a smoother transition into the real world. I hope that as you hold your degree, you are confident that you are extraordinary and that great things lie ahead of you. It's okay not to know what's next, but just know that the next step will elevate you closer to your goals.