You did it. You survived, you made it, you thrived. This is your greatest academic success thus far, and we both know you earned it. You stayed up late, pulled all-nighters, and wrote hundreds of papers. You filled you computer to the brim with lecture notes, and woke up early to review them one more time before the test.
You have your degree now, and whether or not you will use it in the future isn’t the point. That was never the point.
In fact, I’m not so sure that college is really about the academics. It’s about learning, certainly, but most of my learning happened outside the classroom.
Take a moment to think back to how you started. Think about who you were during freshman orientation and as you walked into your very first college class.
Think about how you’ve changed since then, how you’ve grown and matured, what you’ve learned about yourself and the world around you. You’ve been transformed in the last four years, from a teenager to someone very seriously resembling an adult.
College holds some of the most transformative years of our lives, but now that it’s over, you may be in a weird spot. It’s like that moment on the last day of school growing up when the bell rings for the last time for the year. It’s sudden freedom in a way that feels almost eerie. Graduating college is like that but bigger, scarier, more permanent.
Graduating college is the last thing in life you’re “supposed to” do. It’s the last prescribed next step, and now it’s up to you to decide where you want to go.
College graduation for me felt like diving off the edge of a cliff. I had dreams and plans for my future, but part of me never actually thought I’d get there. Being 22 and a college graduate seemed so big and so old that I just couldn’t picture what that reality would look like.
This stage in your life can feel scary and foreign, and like being pushed hard from behind into an unknown world. It’s a massive transition, and whatever you’re feeling right now, I want you to know that’s ok.
It’s ok to feel lost, and scared, and uncertain. It’s ok to miss your friends, and to need a break, and to be annoyed at living under your parents’ roof again. It’s ok to feel panicked about finding a job, and it’s even more okay that you don’t have one yet.
I’m going to take you off the hook right now and tell you: You don’t have to have a job today, or any idea what you want to do for the rest of your life. Chances are, if you get a job today, you’ll have a new one next year, and a different one a year after that. The myth that you have to know what you want to do with your life upon graduation is just that—a myth.
You have years and years to figure it out, and that’s the best part of all.
This is not the just the end of something great, this is the start of something even greater. You have the chance in this moment, right now, today, to become the person you’ve always wanted to be, to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.
And if you don’t know what those things are yet, that’s perfectly fine.
This is the perfect time to explore who you are and the part you’re meant to play in the world around you. Hit the road, travel the world, explore a new place within yourself and around. Don’t worry so much about figuring it all out. You’ll be on that journey for the rest of your life. This is just the beginning. The journey is so much more important than any destination along the way.
You may feel like you’ve lost something great, and you’d be right to feel that way. College is a unique and wonderful time in your life. But if you decide it will be, this next season will be even better.
Life beyond college is an epic adventure.
My favorite years of my life have all happened since receiving my college diploma. I’ve traveled the world, moved across the country, worked at job I loved, started pursuing my greatest dream (hello Lipstick Gospel), and met the man I’m going to marry. My goals are grander, my joy is deeper, my friendships are more beautiful, and my love is sweeter. Life has much more for you than these 4 years had to give.
But today, before you hit the road or conquer the world, here’s what I want you to do: Feel however you want to feel.
Feeling scared and insecure, or panicked, or sad, those are all parts of the journey—the emotions that add the flavor to the great things coming next. But also be excited and take heart—this is only the beginning of your life. Greater adventure awaits you today than ever has before, all you have to do is grab onto it.
Photo credit: Kelsey Smith