It’s been almost a full year since my friends and I sat in Kenan Stadium and turned our tassels celebrating our commencement- the beginning of a bright new future. This year since then has been packed with lots of surprises, lots of fun, and lots of lessons learned.
For the Class of 2006, many of whom I had the pleasure of getting to know, I’ve decided to write this for you. A list of things that I wish I had known when I had graduated. Congratulations on your accomplishments, your dreams, your successes and your failures. All of them have made you who you are.
1. I wish I had known that the real world is just that- real.
It seems simple doesn’t it? Of course the real world is real. But it’s also full of things you’ve never had to handle before. Some of you have never managed your own finances or your own personal affairs. Welcome to dealing with things such as: insurance (you can’t stay on your parent’s forever), banking (savings and investments are important), and LIFE. Life has gone on every day around us. Luckily the collegiate bubble has helped to soften the blow from the impact of the real world. There’s not much that can save you now, though.
2. It’s lonely out there- but it’s going to be okay.
One of the best things about college is that 24,000 of your closest friends are ALWAYS nearby. Generally a text message, bus ride, or short walk away. Not to say that your friends won’t always be text message or a phone call away. But in college, you get used to being able to have access to them within…say…15 minutes. Graduation provides for separation. You and your friends go different ways and you follow different paths that were distinctly for each of you. And you’ll find yourself missing them. You’ll miss lunches in the dining hall, dinners at your favorite restaurants, and the best times- where you just do nothing together. The best thing about this is that: IT’S OKAY. It’s okay to feel lonely. It’s okay to miss your friends. And it’s okay to venture out on your own to become who you were meant to be. The best discovery true friends can make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.
3. Your degree will only get you so far.
Yes, you went to a great school. Yes, you graduated. Yes, you participated in 495306980 extracurricular activites. As a matter of fact, extracurriculars should have been your second (or third) major. Yes, you did well. Graduated with a distinction in something. You know your qualifications. At any rate, guess what- that degree only matters so much. At a certain point, you’ll have to know something. What I mean is, what difference does it make if you tell people that you went (insert name of great institution here) and you don’t know anything? There are plenty of educated fools out there. Don’t be one. When you graduate there are two names on your degree- one of them better be impressive- but both of them SHOULD be.
4. People aren’t as friendly in the real world.
For the most part, everyone in college is friendly. We’re all looking to expand our horizons, meet new people, embrace different cultures. And again, for the most part, the adults on a college campus want to help you. They want to see you reach your goals and to go farther than you thought you would or could. There are some that might not have your best interests at heart, but I think we all can agree that college is a pretty safe place. Now in the real world, it’s a little different. There’s a lot of people with the “Me” or the “I” complex, who don’t really care about you or what you’re trying to accomplish. And they don’t care if they hurt you in the process of them reaching their own goals. It’s something that you have to be aware of and prepared for. However, don’t go into a situation thinking that everyone will treat you wrong–and don’t be naive and think that people won’t treat you wrong.
5. You are indeed prepared for everything you are about to encounter.
This was the best discovery for me- to find out that I was prepared for everything that I was about to encounter. I left college being uncertain of where I would find my niche in the real world. There were days where I thought that I wouldn’t make it. There were days where I didn’t want to make it, and I wanted to quit and go home. I’m still learning, and I’ve realized that everything I’ve encountered prior to this has prepared me for where I am today. Every bad day, every good day, every failure, every success- it all helped to prepare me for the things that I encounter. And you’ll find the same is true for you. It will seem hard. You won’t think that you’re ready. You won’t know how you’ll do it. But you will. And you’ll realize that you were indeed prepared.
This isn’t all encompassing. These were just things that stuck out in my mind. You’re a smart bunch though- I’m sure you’ve already figured most of this out. Congratulations. And when you hit your Quarter-Life crisis, here’s something for you to read. And for the readers- if there’s something that you wish you knew before you graduated, post it in the comments section.
“…But I dare pray for you that you will discover something in life that is worth doing, not simply something that you’re good at or something from which you make a large profit. That would be nice, too. But I pray that each of you will find something that is worth doing, a true and genuine vocation, which is – as Fred Buechner describes it – where your great joy meets the world’s great need. Oh, I pray for each of you that you will find such a meaning in your lives.”
~Dr. Peter Gomes, 2005 UNC Commencement Address
“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance. Never settle for the path of least resistance. Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’. Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’. Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter. When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider. Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”
~ Lee Ann Womack , “I Hope You Dance”
“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road. Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go. So make the best of this test and don’t ask why. It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time…So take the photographs and still frames in your mind. Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time…It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right. I hope you had the time of your life.”
~Green Day, “Good Riddance/Time of Your Life”