College graduates, congratulations!
Hold your heads high knowing that one short walk across a stage separates you from a new reality, and, in many ways, your life is about to begin.
As a recent graduate, myself, I feel compelled to offer what little wisdom I have on the matter as you enter this new phase of life. Because, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s scary… the unknown always is.
So, for what it’s worth, here’s some of what I’ve learned about post-graduate life during the past couple years…
1) College is a remarkable place… for an extrovert like me, it was never in short supply of entertainment, stimulation, challenges, energy, and fun. It was a wonderful community.
I loved that I was guaranteed to be greeted by the warm, smiling faces of several people I considered to be dear friends on any given stroll across campus. On sunny days there was always a blanket to sit on, a frisbee to throw, or a conversation in the square to join. It was a tremendously life-giving environment for me. However, I somehow failed to realize that leaving college also meant I no longer had the privilege of living within walking distance of the vast majority of my friends.
It may be obvious to most people, but the first, and perhaps the toughest, struggle I had was adjusting to this. All of the sudden, friendships had to be scheduled and maintained, penciled-in and planned for, nurtured and intentional. Gone were the friendships of the passersby, welcomed (or not-so-welcomed) were the attempts to maintain contact, and the slow, inevitable realization that some friends would fade away, sometimes only by of the conflicts of our calendars.
My advice here, grads, is to intentionally invest in the people you love, especially you single people. After the hats have all hit the ground, the family goes back home, and the parties wind down, you might find yourself miles away from the people you just shared life with for four years. People start going different directions, pairing off to be married, and fading slowly out of the picture. Don’t let this get you down. Be intentional about investing in the friends that make you feel most alive. Don’t waste time with people if you don’t like who you are when you’re around them. Look forward to the new people you’ll meet, and look for the opportunities to meet them… look forward to the interesting places you’ll go, the ways you’ll mature, and the lessons you’ll learn. It’s hard to leave the campus, but, in time, you’ll realize that your friendships can become richer when they’re on purpose. Besides, you never know who might enter your life to change it for the better.
2) Don’t be in a such a hurry to have everything you ever wanted… you’ll be sorely disappointed.
For the majority of your life, you’ve been told you were being “prepared” for some kind of greatness. When we asked our middle school teachers “Why do we have to study this?” it was to prepare us for the treacherous halls of high school. The high school teachers go to great lengths to convince future theology students that chemistry and calculus are essential tools for college. And, as soon as we hit our college campuses, we are guaranteed that our particular institution is the place to be if we want to succeed in our lives and careers as adults. We are trained to believe this about ourselves and our degrees… and the generation who teaches us this wonders why we seem entitled… why we don’t seem willing to ‘work our way up.’
The fact of the matter is that we do feel somewhat entitled. We’ve been trained to believe that if we do the work, the reward comes instantaneously. We live in the age of the Google search and the microwave dinner, and there’s no time to wait for life to come together… I have a Bachelor’s degree… now I’m set…
Oh, not so fast, Jesse.
Now, if I would’ve known that I would have the job of my dreams in a less than two years after graduated, I would have been overjoyed… However, without the crystal ball to show me the light at the end of the tunnel, I resolved to pessimism and negativity as God took me elsewhere for a little while, first through four seemingly endless months of unemployment, where I dug myself deeper and deeper into self-pity… then I did literally the last thing I ever wanted to do: worked in a cubicle (as a temp, no less). My entire outlook on life spiraled down the toilet with my expectations of instant satisfaction.
This was my fault.
I let myself get caught up in the anthem of our culture, “I want what I know is best for me, and I want it now.”
I was in a hurry to have it all: everything I ever wanted.
For some reason, God has allowed me to have that now, but I know it’s not because I’ve earned it or waited for it patiently. It is a gift of grace that he would be so generous to such an ungrateful son.
Be patient… times are tough, and though we hope they’ll get better, things don’t happen as quickly, neatly, or conveniently as we want them to… and that’s ok.
God is taking you somewhere, and, if you’re wise, you’ll chill out and just follow his lead. You’re going to be ok.
3) If those first two have been kind of a bummer… I’m sorry. Don’t worry though, once you adjust, life gets so much better.
You know when you first got your driver’s license and you had this incredible sense of freedom? Being done with school and out of the rut feels a lot like that.
Don’t get me wrong, my life still has structure, expectations, meetings, and deadlines, but being a “grown-up” is nowhere near as lame as I always made it out to be. You have the freedom to make of your time and yourself what you want them be. Starting over like never before, you may even be able to set your own schedule, go home without homework, and, best of all, actually do what you’re passionate about every single day. Heck, if you’re lucky, someone may even pay you for it.
Though you may have to work through crummy jobs to stay afloat while the right opportunity comes into focus, eventually you’ll find yourself doing something day-in and day-out that actually fills your soul… something you feel is meaningful and beneficial not only to you but to the world. I would encourage you, that if you don’t feel that way about what you do, don’t settle.
It’s true what they say, you know… you’re only young once… take advantage of it. Find what you’re passionate about now, and never let it go.
Find yourself where the world’s greatest need and your greatest joy meet.*
It’s going to be great ride.
Again, congratulations graduates. I’m excited for you. I’m excited for us. I can’t wait to change the world with you… Let’s leave it better than we found it.