It’s time to graduate. Our entire lives up to this point have revolved around school. All of our friends came from either school or work, but even work has been shoehorned into our schedules, finding its place between classes, semesters and school years. Plenty of people graduating will continue to graduate school, and some will get their doctorates, become professors and never leave an institution of learning.
For the rest of us, this will be the first time that we’ve lived a life completely separate from education (that is, until student loans kick in, as they are a wonderful reminder that we did, in fact, go to school). This will be a weird transition. The transition from elementary to middle school, from middle school to high school and from high school to college all meant something to us, but this one will be quite different. I haven’t felt a sense of uncertainty like I have now as graduation approaches. It’s not a fear, necessarily, but it is certainly uncertain.
There are about a million things a college graduate gets to do with a degree, but it’s also impossible to hear back from an employer. The world is your oyster, but what the hell do you do with an oyster? There is a large, scary oyster out there, waiting to swallow you and spit you out as a young, well-groomed professional.
I did very well in school, but what does that say about my ability to work in the professional world, devoid of classrooms and teachers, with no textbooks to buy, no syllabi to (pretend to) read, no professors to tell you class got canceled? Class got canceled? That’s great! Your work got canceled? That means you were fired!
In reality, each of us has no idea what will happen in the next five years. We all have a limited understanding of what happens to people after college, and these ideas come from our recently graduated friends, our family, the media and our own conclusions drawn from what we know about ourselves compared to what we know about others. The one thing you have to continually remind yourself is that if you graduated college, you can do other things.
Graduating college is hard. It’s really hard. It’s not like a lot of people don’t do it, but you know as well as I that the kind of stuff college students put up with in their four, five or six years in school isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart. We’ve scheduled a class, paid for it in some way, purchased books, shown up, learned the material (or at least how to take tests) and completed that class. Over and over and over again we’ve done this.
That is at least 120 credits worth of wins. Big wins. And that kind of momentum is precisely what we need when we move into the real world (as if learning how to communicate with roommates, feed yourself, take care of yourself and maintain sanity all while completing a degree isn’t the real world). The real world, that giant oyster, is frightening. But so was college.
As we move on, remember to keep track of your wins. It’s easy to keep track of your losses, as humans seem to be wired that way. Look back on the past four or five years, count your wins, count your blessings and be aware that more will come. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we have finished college, so go ahead and be proud of yourself for doing it. Happy graduation, and I hope you had as good of a ride as I did.
Scott Rainey is a columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.