Letter to a Graduate

Photo courtesy of Drew Maughan via flickr.

Photo courtesy of Drew Maughan via flickr.

Dear College Graduate,

Congratulations on finally finishing such a huge milestone! You’ve reached the end of a few grueling years of early morning classes, late night study session, and papers long enough to count as mini novellas.

Welcome to the real world of apartment hunting, 5-minute-showers because now you’re paying for the water, and splurging on a bottle of two-buck-Chuck from Trader Joe’s with friends.

You have your dream jobs (good!) and then you have the real jobs you’re going to need to take right away, the ones that will pay for your food and put a roof over your head. Jobs that will build perseverance, the resume, and the work-ethic you need to survive in this world.

Don’t despise the little things and know that nothing is wasted.

That time you spend waiting tables, tutoring kids or working as an intern for no pay will matter. Someday you’ll look back and realize what you learned was invaluable.

Work those jobs like they’re your dream job, giving it the same amount of energy and passion you would if you were being payed the big bucks to do the cool work. People will notice. And you’ll build a habit of excellence that is priceless.

Those friendships you made in college? Some will last a lifetime, others were over the minute that party ended. You’ll meet people at work who have no patience for your college stories, others who can’t seem to let go of theirs (even though it has been twenty years).

You’ll be surprised at who you connect with, work with, live with and do life with.

It may take you a while to find your footing, to build a group of friends like you had during these last few years. That’s ok. Real friendships always take time. College is like a long summer camp, making friendships form faster and deeper (at least in the short term).

Give yourself time. And be friendly to those who are making an effort to include you, especially if you’re in a new city. Don’t forget to pass the favor along someday when a fresh face enters your workplace or neighborhood.

You’ll miss those late night conversations about the Meaning of Life but find new joy in meeting up for Happy Hour or setting up your first place, stocked with mismatched dishes from Goodwill and thrift store furniture.

Loneliness and disappointment, sprinkled with a bit of heartbreak, will strip away your pretense and humble you.

I pray they happen soon, and when they do, that you’ll let them be the fire that forges your determination, refines your dreams, and leaves you a more compassionate, grateful, and welcoming person to those around you.

If you thought college changed you, just wait until real life gets its hands on you. In a few years you’ll be amazed at the person you’ve become (hopefully for the better) and how much you’ve learned about how little you actually know.

Don’t be afraid to challenge what has always been done, to attempt the impossible or to put yourself out there with new friends, new cities and new loves.

Don’t let the fear of failing or making a poor decision keep you stunted in your tracks.

There are only a few mistakes you can make that will really screw up your life. Act with integrity and justice, love faithfully, figure out what role God plays in your life and stay away from drugs. There are a few others, but really, the list is short.

When you do find love, the hard-fought, soul-grabbing, breathtaking love that so many are searching for, don’t take it for granted and don’t be afraid of it. Hold on to it and build a life on it.

The grass is not always greener on the other side, and lighting doesn’t strike twice.

Know when you have a good thing going and be smart enough to stick around to cultivate it into something stunning.

Finally, remember that this is everyone’s first attempt at this adventure called Life. No one really has it all figured out. When you look at someone and think they have it so together, that they seem so in control and sure of themselves, know that someone else is probably looking at you and thinking the same. And that person you admire? Half the time they’re making it up as they go.

Just keep moving forward, one step at a time. You’re going to do great.

-A Friend on the Journey