So you’ve graduated. Congrats! That’s a really big deal. Despite what the statistics say, making it to the finish line is not something that everyone gets to accomplish.
Now that you’ve finished your academic journey, you are probably busy celebrating and reveling in the fact that you have absolutely nothing to do. That your life, once busy with club meetings, tests and paper deadlines, is chock full of Netflix binging and OnDemand channels. And it’s OK, healthy even, to relax and gain back a little of your sanity.
But you have another adventure waiting for you: the rest of your life.
Scary, huh? Don’t worry. It’s not as bad as I make it sound. But you need to remember a few things:
First: Do something that you love. If this is what you went to school for, good for you! Go out there and change the world with your degree. If this isn’t what you went to school for, don’t worry. A lot of people graduate and realize that they have no idea what the fuck the last four years were supposed to mean.
But do something that brings you joy. What is joy, you ask? It’s that feeling of time flying when you’re working on something. It’s that content feeling you get when you have nowhere else you would rather be. It’s that sense of peace that is the knowledge that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Many people search for years to find this joyous job. Some people know right away that walking dogs, taking care of babies in the NICU, or fixing someone’s car is exactly where they are supposed to be. So search. Go forth and find what makes you happy. And don’t worry about money. It is better to be happy and poor, then trapped and rich.
Second: Love yourself. You may think that this is easy, but it can actually be really hard. Ever seen the movie The Runaway Bride? It’s the story about a woman who literally runs away from men she loves at the alter. She runs because she’s afraid. She runs because she loves them, but she’s not really sure they love her. So before you can find your soulmate, you need to learn a little bit about you. How do you like your eggs? What makes you happy? What pisses you off? How are you when you’re hungry? What are you like when you’re single? Who are you? And more importantly: do you like the person who stares back at you in the bathroom mirror?
Third: Take a chance. Do something that scares you. Make a colossal mistake. Date the wrong person. Move across the country. Hell, move across the world. Disconnect from technology. Drive without a GPS. Take a vacation alone. Do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and make no apologies. Now is the time to be stupid. Now is the time to forget to pay your rent. Now is the time to pack your bags, quit your job and travel the world. Because now is the only time when you are unattached. Now is the time when you are the only person you have to worry about. Now is the time when you don’t have a mortgage, orthodontist bills to pay, and a dog to walk. Now is when you can take that leap off that mountain ledge and hope to God that there’s something (or someone) there to catch you. So jump. Because you’ll never realize your limitations until you break them.
And finally: Be kind. This may seem trivial, but I mean it more than just a “be kind to your neighbor” kind of way. I mean it like this: be kind to the environment. Don’t litter and pick up litter you see around you. Be kind to animals and adopt, don’t shop. And if you can’t adopt, at least donate to your local animal shelter so that they can care for the animals you can’t call your own. Pay it forward and help that senior citizen with their groceries. Because somewhere out there, your grandparents are struggling with their groceries and someone else might be helping them out. Be kind to your family and your friends. Remember to put them first and to listen to their problems. Be kind to cashiers and food servers and public employees and cab drivers because they’re probably having just as hard a time as you are, if not an even harder time and we could all do with a little kindness. Be kind because you can be kind. Don’t be kind because you think it will pay off and get you into heaven (although it can’t hurt). Be kind because it makes you feel good and because being kind is good for the soul.
So go out into the world, new graduate, and make a difference. Change the world or change one person’s life. Smile, head up, shoulders back. You are the future, and the future is calling you. You are the next doctor, the next CEO, the next teacher, the next President, the next everything. You matter. And what you do, matters. So be kind, be smart, and be yourself. And like my dad always says: Don’t fuck it up. You got this.