When I graduated from college in 2014, I had no idea what the future was going to hold. I only knew three things. 1). That I was moving to Washington, D.C. for a 4-month long internship, 2.) That singing Country Roads at graduation was going to be one of the hardest things I had ever done, and 3). I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. So as I was scrolling through Facebook and Instagram this week, seeing all of the excitement around college graduation, I knew it was time to write down my advice for college graduates. The people who were getting their acceptance letters to West Virginia University when I was graduating from WVU in 2014 will be walking across the stage in just a few short weeks and it's hard not to reflect on what I was feeling at that time.
Graduating from college is scary. It is the first time in perhaps our entire lives when the path is no longer laid out for us. Before college graduation, it's easy! You go to preschool, then kindergarten, eventually you get to middle and high school, etc. But once you walk across that stage and turn your tassel, everything changes. There is no longer a set path to take. In fact, the path you chose is yours and yours alone. Sure, you can listen to fuddy-duddies like me dishing out advice for college graduates all day but at the end of the day, it's all up to you now.
At the end of Country Roads (or whatever your school's equivalent is), you will part way with your friends, roommates, classmates, perhaps for forever. You will completely embark on a new journey which may look different for everyone but it will be your journey to take. I remember a distinct moment during my commencement ceremony where it all suddenly hit me that this was it. Whether you continue your education or jump right on into the "real world" you are about to journey down an unknown path that will lead you to new and exciting destinations and people.
With all that being said, here's some actionable advice for college graduates that I hope you'll remember as you experience one of the most exciting times in your life:
There is nothing wrong with moving away
If you're called to take a job that's 4,000 miles away from your college town or even your hometown, don't let other people's desire for you to stay hold you back. I always knew I would eventually leave West Virginia and while not everyone was happy about it, I knew it was the best decision for me at the time. I made amazing friends in Washington, D.C., moved to New York where I met the one, and am about to start an entirely different crazy journey altogether. Sometimes a change of scenery is what we truly need to thrive.
You won't keep in touch with everyone and that's okay
It’s impossible to stay in touch with everyone you’ve ever met, obviously. But what can be really hard is losing touch with people who used to mean so much to you. I think I did learn this before college graduation, honestly, but I didn’t really pay attention to it until after. The people who truly care about you will make an effort (and vice versa) but there are going to be those who won’t and that’s alright. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't put in the effort to keep in touch with those you truly care about. Some of your college friendships will last lifetimes and you'll end up having them in your bridal party, like me.
Yes, you're still allowed to miss your mom
Don’t think that just because you aren’t in school anymore doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to miss your mom (or dad… hi dad). Missing your parents, or any family for that matter is a natural part of the journey but don’t hold yourself back just because you’re scared that you might miss them too much. Trust me, your parents probably miss you just as much if not more than you miss them. Call your parents, make plans to see them regularly if possible, and don't let anyone tell you that you're not allowed to miss your mom as an adult.
You’ll probably hate your first job
Oh, god. Did I ever. My first job was incredibly boring and I had to get up super early to catch the train (and then a bus) to work, which also meant I got home pretty late, too. The worst part was the fact that I didn’t do anything at work. My internship was literally me sitting at a desk on the quietest floor in what I am convinced in the entirety of the office world and twiddling my thumb until it was time to go. It wasn’t that I never asked for work either, my supervisor just didn’t know how to handle interns (especially two with disabilities). I really, really hated it. But you know what? I met some pretty amazing people (TG for Caroline) and got to do some pretty cool things, like propose a strategy for handling workplace violence. It’s also led me to the great opportunity I have today, so I try not to complain. You’re going to have jobs you hate, period. I don’t agree with the “doing your time” thing but you will probably have at least one job you don’t like because that’s exactly how you learn what you like. Yeah?
The end is only the beginning...
When you walk across that stage and turn your tassel to the other side, it feels a lot like the end. People always try to say that the best years of your life are flanked by a graduation (some say high school, some college) but I don’t buy that for a minute. I had a great time in college but it’s nothing compared to the life I am making for myself now. As you listen to the graduation speech, reflect on all the memories you’ve made, good and bad, and prepare to close the chapter. Graduation is just the beginning of the rest of your life so go out and be the best that you can be.
I’m sorry if you’re old like me and read this post just to turn into a ball of tears, which is what happened to me as I was writing this. If you’re graduating in the next few weeks, I seriously wish you the absolute best. And if you haven’t heard it enough already, you’re going to do great things. Seriously, you can change the world if you want to! Congratulations to the class of 2018!