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After passing four years of college, the only thing I can say is it didn’t feel like what others told me it would. In May 2015, I crossed the stage and listened as my graduating class cheered me on. I had reached a big moment and I could feel the pride my parents felt.
For myself, as well as a lot of others I know, school was not a question but an expectation to “make something of yourself.” I received many cards congratulating me and all of my mentors were telling me how proud I should be of myself. After this, I would go on to get a masters and meet a lovely guy who I would marry and live a life of travel and art.
Those plans, it turns out, were wrong. I went back to my retail job and continued the gruelling process of sending resumes.
I was inspired to write this letter specifically from my own struggles in the post-graduate life.
First, I want to say it’s okay to feel whatever you are feeling about where you currently are in life. It can be a terrible process of finding your identity after school. Some people will float through this process and be fully energized. If you are one of those people, congrats! Others are not like this.
In giving my own input and sharing my experiences, I hope I can help you move through this period in life.
The following are three tips I found worked for me as I navigated through:
1. Grieve/ Mourn
Cry uncontrollably in the shower, in your car, or under the covers. This is a major change, a rebirth going from being a young adult into the big scary world. Let yourself feel through everything.
My tip is to schedule time each day. Maybe it’s 30 minutes, an hour, or two hours. That is your uninterrupted time to let everything out. You could create a Slam book where you can safely put all your feelings and just vent, or maybe you punch your pillow (just not your favorite one).
2. Ask “Why?”
Are you crying because you aren’t happy with your path? Did you go to college for someone else? Is it not being able to find a job or not knowing what you want?
When I graduated I cried at everything from Bambi to cereal commercials. It wasn’t because I loved cereal that much; it was because I had lived my life dependent on praise. I needed to be told I was making people proud.
Flip back to graduation day. I had pride from completing the task I worked all those years for, but the words “we’re so proud of you” didn’t feel enough for me. When I thought about it, I realized I didn’t graduate for me. I did it because I was expected to and feared the outcome of not following those expectations.
Anything you do will be weighed greatly by the intention placed behind it. Once you grieve start asking why you are feeling that way about everything.
As annoying as it feels at first, keep asking until you get to the root. You won’t want to answer all the time, but keep going until you start pushing past your mask.
3. Go to Neverland
My last and probably most important tip is to go to Neverland—yes, Neverland. Start trying new things. I keep a list of things I am afraid of and I tell myself I will do one of them every day.
Did you ever want to be in a play? Go audition. How about being a scientist? Rent a library book and start your research. Do you want to travel? Get a map and pinpoint where you want to go and what you need to do to get there.
Take yourself to a happy place, to your Neverland, where anything can happen and see what your gut says. Most likely you will be uncomfortable; maybe what you want is different than how others want you to be.
While you are in Neverland make a plan and see what comes from it. As you find hints of inspiration decide how you will make those plans happen. Get a vision board, get those inspirational podcasts, and listen to how people you admire got to where they are.
Graduation is tough, so let your body rest and recuperate.
This is a letter to all post grads no matter what age, or how long it’s been since school. This is a letter to those who are on their path as well as those who feel stuck.
You are deserving of a now where you are safe and happy. In those moments of tears and anxiety, I hope you can look back at this letter and see you have a friend. As this friend, I say you are not a failure–you are a winner.
You are not hopeless, but so ridiculously hopeful and bright I have to put sunglasses on! You are not lost; you may be at a loss of what to do but you have everything you need to plan your path.
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