This past weekend, I sat at my younger sister’s college graduation ceremony and I couldn’t help but be transported back to my undergraduate commencement. Let me take a quick sidebar and just say how annoyingly awful graduation ceremonies are. Yes, it is a special time for friends and relatives to dab their teary-eyes and exclaim their pride for the graduate and yes, it is a tradition that has been set for years and years…and years. Graduation ceremonies are uniform and boring. But it’s just one of those things in life that we don’t question or change – we just accept it. If you think about it, graduation ceremonies kind of mirror The Hunger Games pretty accurately. Let me explain.
The procession followed by sitting in a large group of peers, all wearing the same outfit is eerily familiar to The Reaping. Family members look on as if they know exactly how you feel – – As if they have been there before. The speeches are definitely all the same and end with the all-too-familiar, “May the odds be ever in your favor” feel. And lastly, the “real world” is set as the arena. It’s truly a dog-eat-dog world out here and there isn’t much room to have alliances. Let’s just be glad that we’re not named Katniss. Moving on.
Where was I? Ah yes. Three years have passed since my twenty-two-year-old self pretty much galloped with glee across the graduation stage to receive my Bachelor’s degree. I was full of the perfect mixture of excitement and nerves. My real life was about to begin!
Boy, was I disappointed.
The following is a letter dedicated to my sister and really, every other twenty-two-year-old out there who is experiencing the same feeling of excitement swirling with a shit load of anxiety.
As your big sister, my job is and has always been to be a good example, give great advice, be a shoulder to cry on, and above all else, be someone you can look up to. So, I guess I should probably apologize for not completely adhering to all of those duties. Being the older sister is hard! Aside from my fabulous fashion sense I’ve tried tirelessly to “pass down” to you over the years, I think another aspect that I can give that may (actually) be useful is my advice/experience of how to deal with all-things-post-graduation.
Here we go…
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a vision of what post-graduation life is going to look like. Here are some of the top things I envisioned for myself after graduating…
I like to call this next section: “What really happened”
1. Fancy Feast: No, this doesn’t pertain to cats. After the years of living off dorm food and ramen, I thought that after graduation I would completely change my ways. My fridge and pantry were going to be stocked full of fancy “adult” food. What would this fancy adult food be? I’m not really sure. I think I envisioned myself at least harboring some fresh produce.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: I still live off noodles and swipe my debit card out to eat, far too often. Also, as for the “fresh produce” – – I have a hard time finishing a half-gallon of milk before it expires…
2. BUSY: After college, I assumed I would be extremely busy. I would be working 40+ hours a week at my dream career, balancing philanthropy work I was passionate about, hangin’ with my super successful live-in boyfriend, and still finding time for “Happy Hour” with friends — Of course.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: Well, let’s see here. I did find a job. Definitely not my dream. My philanthropic duties range from begrudgingly taking out the trash and occasionally watching my friend’s puppy who tires me out within 30 minutes of exposure. That super successful boyfriend? Yeah, that’s not something I have to “worry about fitting in” right now. “Happy Hour” does happen, thankfully. Mainly, because it’s from 4-7pm and most of us want to be in bed by 9pm. As for being busy? I miss being busy. In college I was so busy between classes, work, student organizations, friends, boys, etc., I had to nap for twenty minutes between activities just to gain some shuteye for the week. Now, I have more free time than I know what to do with. Like, I now have the time to work out? Yuck.
3. Professional Clothing: After graduation I assumed I would transform. One of these miraculous transformations would be my clothes. I would wake up one day with a complete closet makeover, full of professional blazers, suits (lady like suits – not butchy/boy-like suits), expensive heels, etc. I would be stylin’.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: I still shop at The Gap way more than I would prefer. I have exactly two pairs of “work shoes” that are heels that look “professional” and also exude the comfort needed for standing all day. Needless to say, they aren’t the “cutest” things I shove on my hooves. I have one (ONE) “interview” outfit. I’m still waiting for this closet makeover to surprise me one morning – – Here’s to hoping.
4. Sense of Direction: Yes, I mean something deeper than North-South-East-West directions (However, I could use a better sense of those as well). I just knew that once I graduated college that I would know what my “mission” in life would be. I would magically just know if it was time to change jobs, go to grad school, or pack up and move across the county. Graduation was going to be that time in my life when my “plan” was going to come to fruition and show me what the next step was.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: I was just as confused as ever. Probably even more fucking so. While all opportunities were at my fingertips, my “plan” seemed to be burning up in flames right before my eyes. Unfortunately, this “plan” that most of us have doesn’t come with time extensions or modification directions. Get ready for days when your highest accomplishments include scoring two yahtzees in “Dice with Buddies” and not losing a sock whilst tending to your laundry.
5. Lesssss Hangovers: Growing older, I just assumed that I would have less hangovers. Less drinking = Less hangovers.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: As I stopped drinking as frequently, my tolerance leveled out at ZERO. Now, after a few beers or a shot, I’m about ready to be wheeled home. Check, please.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. Well Stace, gee thanks. This has been super uplifting. I am so pumped that I just graduated. Hold on… keep reading. Let’s get serious for a moment.
So here you are, at the ultimate crossroads of your life. This is no fucking joke. This will be the biggest crossroad of your entire life. This is where you get to choose everything.
Sure. You’re currently enduring a complete identity crisis. Yep, there is still going to be some failure and most likely some more heartbreak ahead. And yes, you’re going to run into the “Big Three”: Boredom, Routine, and Frustration. And yes, all three of these bitches will suck. Big time. BUT! There is something you can do.
You hold all the power. You get to choose how you’re going to react to all of it. This may sound cliché or corny or whatever but you get to choose how you’re going to adapt to it all. You get to choose if you’re going to remain positive or if you’re going to fall into a well of despair and never fully recover. You get to decide if you’re going to work extremely hard to get what you want or if you’re going to just roll over. You get to choose if you’re going to embrace moving back home, spend time with your parents, get to know them all over again, and actually enjoy it or you can feel sorry for yourself and re-watch Mad Men on Netflix in the basement.
The point is, you get to choose. You get to decide. Sure, you learned all about your major and you even found your minor to be pretty interesting. And yep, you’re “well rounded” thanks to general education requirements. But the main thing that the fancy (and expensive) diploma you received should give you is the ability to choose. College should have taught you one of life’s most powerful lessons – – What has meaning and what doesn’t. If you’re extremely lucky, you’ve learned how to decide what is meaningful to you and what isn’t.
So why does this matter? It matters because no matter what situation you get yourself in, no matter what is thrown your way, no matter who breaks your heart, no matter how confused you feel, no matter what changes you have to endure… You have the ability to choose how you’re going to react. College should have taught you to have confidence in yourself. To have confidence in your choices and actions. You have the confidence to stand by how you feel. Sure, things aren’t going to go exactly how you think they will. And I can almost guarantee that your “plan” is going to be foiled immediately. But in the end you have to remember that no matter what happens, you are still in charge of what is most important – – you.
My final piece(s) of advice are the following:
1.If you’re moving home: Don’t mope around and haunt your hometown like some sad ghost. Get up and get doing. Also, avoid the main grocery store – – Just trust me on that one.
2. Don’t make super depressing Facebook statuses. In fact, stay off Facebook as much as possible. Facebook may have been the best medicine for procrastination while writing a term paper but now you’re just going to want to be added to a suicide watch list when you’ve refreshed your newsfeed thirty times in the span of two minutes. Get a Twitter account and follow some funny comedians.
3. Take some time to find yourself. Yes, this is cliché but take some time and “date yourself”. Read a real book (not a textbook or academic article). You know, that book haven’t had time for between the all-nighters and exams you were cramming for. Really sharpen your Netflix profile and what is recommended for you. Write something, anything. Figure out what your favorite food really is. Garner an opinion on politics, same-sex marriage, marijuana, the death penalty, abortion, and so forth. (Note: I didn’t say share this opinion – – But I do believe it is critical to have your own opinion formed before others try to change it). Find out what you really want in someone you date, get into a serious relationship with, or even eventually marry. Realize that your parents are (and were) always right. About everything. (Hang out with them more).
If you remember anything I have just rambled about remember this: Things aren’t going to go according to plan.
Just throw the fucking plan out.