An Open Letter from a Graduate to All Undergrads
You probably think this is going to be the cliche-est (if that is even a word) article you’ll ever read. And maybe it would turn out to be that, but all I can promise is that this is my version of the truth and maybe the truth is cliche.
Anyway, this is not a manual about how you should deal with one of the most frightening transitions of your life, because no one can give you that. Nor is it a to-do list, because I am still as clueless as you are.
This is just insights of personal experience from someone who just graduated four months ago. It’s as simple as that. This open letter is a piece of advice. It’s a long piece but this advice comes from someone who’s passed the threshold of university life to the other side. So this is for you my undergrad friends and colleagues.
Last June I stood in my graduation commencement in front of thousands of graduates, families, and friends and preached for fear. Not living in it but embracing it. So yes, here I am asking you to be afraid. You do not need to generate it but if it comes by you should feel it and embrace it as much as you can. This fear will surely pass but when it does you’ll find that you are better, stronger and different.
I preached for embracing fear because it teaches you better than anything else. I preached for fear because I know everyone else would rather overcome it before it even comes along. What is better than stopping a fear prior to its existence is living by it, going through it and then saying you’ve survived it and that it made you stronger.
Our fears make us human, they make us true and real. Graduating is scary, extremely exciting but very scary. You are overwhelmed with options and closed doors. You feel like you should start making a plan not for a year or a semester but for a life, a plan that needs to go as you map it out because this is your life and you are responsible for making it work.
So this fear is justified, do not hide from it or run. I spent last summer waking up every day asking myself questions. Should I start worrying that I have NO idea what I want to do for the rest of my life or should I just enjoy the beach and pretend like nothing is wrong? But then I decided to practice what I preach and embrace the fear I woke up with.
I go to the beach and I think about every option, I tell myself that I deserve to live that fear and that I deserve to see where it would lead me. So I make plans and they fail, I make plans and they go to waste and I keep on coming up with ideas. I knew that one day one door would open and it doesn’t really matter the moment when one did.
I am still making plans and thinking of what should come first and what might be better. I have dreams and hopes and no idea how to make them real and that scares me sometimes so it is okay if you have no idea if your major is any good or if you think you’ve wasted 4 or 5 years studying something while wanting to pursue something else.
And it is okay if this scares you because it should, but that does not mean you won’t survive it or get through it and it does not mean that when you do, you won’t feel great about it. You are going to be a rock star every single day!
You might not figure it out soon.
Here is another secret (maybe not) no one wants to tell you; you are going to spend a good amount of time not knowing what exactly are you doing (I am still at that point in time). You could pull off a good act that might show you’re in control. But for real, you could start your career and still remain clueless and I promise it is okay.
Try different things, pursue every dream of yours till you either realize it is really not what you want or you’re not the right person for it. Take time to differentiate your interests and your skills. Not everything you’re good at can become your career and not everything you are great at can end up being something you can do every day for the rest of your life.
Take chances & breathe but don’t Settle!
You have no reason to settle for anything less than what you want and what you aim for. The first job offer is not the last. If it does not sound like something you’re passionate about or at least something you would like to further explore, please do not go for it. Because, it is too early – and it will always be -for you to wake up every day miserable because you’re doing something you’d rather not do. Do not get stuck early on because you’ll get used to it and you’ll keep doing it more and more.
Try new things but take a breath before you do any of them. Embrace your fears so well that you would never need to settle to avoid them.
And remember, I still haven’t figured it all out so don’t take my word for it!