“And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.” – Neil Gaiman
This article was originally posted on The Odyssey on July 5, 2016.
Congratulations, you’ve made it through four years of school that pushed you to the edge and back more than once. You’ve made it through the heartache, the anxiety, the overwhelming pressure that your academics, your friendships and your relationships have caused you during those years. You’ve escaped the horror and panic of not knowing there was a test, not knowing how to do the homework, not knowing how you’re going to survive after graduation. The real world is kind of terrifying, and it doesn’t matter where you’re graduating from, reality is going to smack you in the face regardless. I wish that someone had told me just how things would turn out in the future. So here I am to pass what I’ve learned onto someone else.
People love to talk about your accomplishments. Your friends, parents, and family could spend an entire house party bragging about where you’ve traveled, how you achieved your grades, and who you’ve made an impact on. They will find the smallest victories to chat about with friends, co-workers, and sometimes even complete strangers. All that talk can chalk up a lot of pressure in someone. It can build expectations that you may not be ready to take on or ever fulfill. The first thing you need to know is that you control your future. It doesn’t matter if your neighbor thinks you’re going to cure cancer, or alternatively, if perhaps your mortal enemy believes that you’re going to cause the apocalypse. Your next step lies beneath your own feet. Trust yourself and only yourself to move forward. Know that you will make mistakes and maybe you’ll disappoint someone. Wouldn’t you rather disappoint someone following a dream of your choosing instead of making that same person proud while you’re unhappy?
That leads me to the next point, choose your own happiness. You are an adult now, and you may have been an adult for a while, but sometimes we all need a reminder. You have the freedom to make your own decisions, which can be both a blessing and a curse. This is not to say that you will not receive support and comfort when you need it; I’m sure your parents will be more than happy to wash a load of your laundry every once in a while. Know that you are in charge of your body, your well-being and your mental health. It does not matter how many restrictions your family places on you, now that you’ve graduated, you can make some decisions for yourself. You can choose to give up or survive. You can choose to wake up with a smile on your face. You can choose to relinquish all of your burdens, all of your hate, and all of your grudges. All of that sounds extremely overwhelming and very scary, but know that you are not alone. You are never alone, and there is always another hand reaching out at the same time yours is.
Know your worth. You are going to change so much after graduation that you might not even recognize yourself anymore. If you thought that you had changed during those four years, get ready for a new transition. Embrace change and be open. After graduation, there are going to be so many new ideas and challenges rolling your way, that you’re going to have to stay on top of everything just to keep up. Everything happens for a reason, even if you’re not entirely sure just what that reason is. Even if change seems to ruin everything, keep your head up and your eyes open. As one door closes, several others open. Remember that, and you’ll be OK.
You’ve just endured four years of complications, four years of obstacles, four years of ups and downs and merry-go-rounds, and you’re still here. Sometimes the going gets tough, and it seems easier to give up and start over. Sometimes it seems easier to give up forever. Fight for yourself. You may be so fortunate that you already have someone, or several someones fighting for you, fighting on your side. The most important thing to remember during this weird post-four-years-of-hell time period is that you have to look out for yourself. At the end of the day, some people stay, and some people leave, but the only person that has always fought for you is you. Fight for your survival, and fight for a better tomorrow. Don’t go down without a battle.
Finally, realize that time doesn’t stop for anyone, or for anything. Some will argue that each minute you waste on this planet being unproductive, is another minute you become closer to your demise, or your end. I think that’s totally depressing. As the former CEO of Twitter, Richard Costolo once said, “Don’t always worry what your next line is going to be.” Live in the present. Yes, you control your future and your happiness and your well-being, but don’t get caught up in all this future talk. Worrying about tomorrow before you even step foot into today can be seriously toxic to not only yourself but the people around you as well. Know all of the things listed above, but keep them in the back of your mind. You can’t predict the future, but there will always be consequences attributed to your actions.
You’ve already survived at least four years of school. If you can survive four years of constant academic pressure, know and believe that you can survive four more years of anything. If that seems entirely too overwhelming, take it down. You can definitely survive four months of anything, four days of anything, and at the very least, take it every four minutes. You’ve survived this long, and you can absolutely survive again, and you will survive again and again and again. I wish someone had warned me of how much everything would change, and how to battle that change because I was not as prepared as I thought I was. I truly believe that everyone can afford to be more prepared. I know even after I’ve experienced everything, I am still learning new things and will continue to learn as much as I possibly can.