A little over a year ago, I crossed one of the most important milestones in my life thus far— moving on from student to graduate.
In the five quick minutes it took to walk across the stage, and receive my degree, I was overwhelmed with excitement and nervousness about the uncertainty of what this post-grad life would encompass.
Like most people my age, my expectations of graduation were based almost entirely off of movies and TV shows I’d seen growing up. And as entertaining as they were, it wasn’t too long before I realized just how romanticized and misleading these depictions often are.
During my first year out of school, I have stumbled (both gracefully and not-so-much) into some important lessons that could help anyone who is also trying to navigate the unknown of life post-grad.
1. Focus more on the ‘how’ and ‘why’, and less on the ‘when’ & ‘where’
As soon as I stepped off of the stage, degree in hand, one thought immediately came into my mind – “What now?” I had barely even left the building before I was mapping out every aspect of the rest of my life. And while I do believe having an idea of the goals you want to achieve is important, there is a lot of pressure added when we get too caught up in specific end dates and times to complete them.
In my experience, post-graduation is the best time to fully embrace a lack of detail-orientation, and to think in a broader, more idea-driven mindset. I began to accept that things might not happen exactly by the time I’d set for myself, but that it did not mean I’d failed or was unsuccessful. Now, I have a more conscious approach to my goals, and I put more energy into asking myself why I wanted to accomplish this particular thing, and how I’ll feel when I do.
2. Know that success is not one-size-fits-all
Honestly, this has been the hardest post-grad lesson to come to terms with. What it means to ‘be successful’ is different for everyone. Naturally, it follows that someone’s journey to success should also be unique to them. As straightforward as it sounds, it is very easy to doubt our own progress based on comparisons to others. This self-doubt is heightened when you factor in social media’s role in feeding us a steady stream of #lifegoals on a daily basis.
When my self-doubt gets to me, I remind myself that when I do eventually reach my own success, it’ll be that much more fulfilling having gotten there by following my own unique path --- and by not imitating someone else’s.
3. Be a student of life
In the months after graduating, I found myself with a schedule that was ready and open for opportunities. Initially, it was strange not having some kind of upcoming assignment or exam to study for. Then I realized I’d finally have the chance to read and learn about things that I had genuine interest in, without the stress of being graded on it. For instance, I recently completed a documentary-making course, and I was surprised to find how much more engaged I was when I had the freedom to learn without a time constraint or an exam at the end!
I recommend investing in an unexplored skill, and taking the time to learn something new inside and out. Try learning bout an issue from a viewpoint opposite your own, or sign up for a free class just for the sake of it!
The world of post-grad is one that is strange, confusing, and more often than not, terrifying. On the other hand, it is also an exciting and eye-opening time, filled with unexpected surprises. I would be lying if I said I had it all figured out – there are still so many lessons and realizations to come. Embracing this new territory with an open and curious mind has allowed me to stay on my own path (even if I may not know 100% where it leads). And hey, if I’ve made it okay this far, I’m sure you will too.
It all begins with a five-minute walk…
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