A Letter to the Recent Grad
Dear student / recent grad,
This week officially marks the anniversary of my graduation, so I will try to get through writing this post before I have to hobble away on my cane to meet my friends for senior bingo night. But if you're graduating soon, or if you have already graduated, then congratulations! You have just hit such a major milestone in your life, and for those of you who aren't planning on going to grad school, then this is the last time that you'll be a student!!!!! EVER!!!!!
Are you having a panic attack yet? Because I'm having one just thinking about the initial shock of realizing that.
In all seriousness, though, before you go totally off the rails like I did last summer, take a second to applaud yourself for trekking to all of those 8 am classes, surviving all of those midweek hangovers, for all of the new experiences that you tried, and for venturing out on your own for what might have been the first time in your life. Of all of the words I could use to describe college, "easy" isn't one of them, whether it came to boys or friends or that class I took on global warming. You've finished, you're out, it wasn't easy, and you should be so, so excited about it.
…but it's hard to be excited about it when you're too busy being terrified.
I took graduating really hard. Like, really hard. I left school having absolutely nothing figured out with absolutely no answers, and spent most of the summer crying to my parents and denying the fact that I could no longer get dollar drinks at the bar (one of the rudest awakenings about post-grad life…). I felt lost without my friends, without the walls of UNH that protected us all so neatly, and without my identity as a student.
…because if I wasn't a student, then who the $%&@# was I?!?!?
I'm often asked if I like being an only child, and I always answer the same way: that I have never lived a life in which I wasn't an only child, so I wouldn't ever be able to know otherwise. That's what it felt like coming out of school. Even now, I feel like life was so much easier when someone would ask me what I was doing, or what I wanted to be doing, and I could just simply respond: "Oh, I'm a student." (Of course, then people would ask, "What are you studying?" and I would say "English," then they would stare at me blankly... you know the story.) This persona that I had built my life around was gone and I felt like I had to quite literally pack up sixteen years of my life and erase them. I felt like I was staring at the blank word document in that episode of SpongeBob where he tries so hard to find the words but all he comes up with is:
I started writing for this blog a year ago when it was my first year out of school, and I'm so grateful for it, because not only did I get to read and relate to those who were going through the same things that I was going through, but now, I get to go back and read my own writing and relive it all over again, every emotion, every single thing I felt when school was coming to an end. And it still isn’t easy. Even now, it still isn’t easy. But if I could give any piece of mind to pass on to you graduates that might ease your uneasy conscience, it would be this:
You should always, always try to live your life the way a student would. Go into each day the way you did your freshman year when it felt like everything was something new. Learn. Learn as much as you can, as often as you can, about everything you can (the other day, it was learning how to use our can opener). Throw yourself into whatever it is that thrills you, that moves you, that scares you, and allow yourself to open up to the world, and to others, and most importantly—and often, this is the hardest—to yourself. You outgrow school; eventually, you have to. But don't ever outgrow that feeling of curiosity, of never being fully satisfied, like there is a part of you that's missing out there somewhere, and it's your destiny to find it and follow it wherever it may lead you. No matter where I am, or what I'm doing, I hope I will always feel restless, like I'll never be completely settled, like I will constantly need to learn and see and move and go. And I hope that never changes.
So, student, in the immortal words of Elle Woods: "You did it!" Take a deep breath, and make sure to remember this feeling of total uncertainty. And soon, you will realize that as fast and as fun and as fabulous as these past years have been, nothing can rival the years that are ahead of you and that having absolutely nothing figured out with absolutely no answers is going to be exactly what you need.
And you may not know it yet. But don’t worry.
[Photo by Chelsey Satterlee.]