A Commencement Speech; Or, What Happens In The College Afterlife

The first step you are going to take after those many down the grassy aisle and on to the podium as you pray to the gods your dean pronounces your name right, is towards a lot of parties. You are going to celebrate your success as a college graduate, a master of your subject, a true connoisseur in the field of education. Forget Alicia Keys, it’s YOU that’s on fire. You’ve killed it in your studies, your internship and your social life. You’ve followed all the directions, the yellow brick road to success, and there is no way anyone is going to stop shiny, glistening you.

The next thing that is going to happen is that you will probably end up moving back home. After a few weeks or a month, you figure you’ll have to get your hands a little bit dirty, because you need the money to get out of the small town you are from and you haven’t exactly had a lot of luck with finding a “real” job. You will find out what it’s like to wait tables for ten hours straight with no breaks. You’ll take a lousy job as the receptionist for Haircuts 4 Less. You might witness your friends finding jobs right away, because life’s a cruel bitch, and some of these friends will move to New York or LA to pursue their dreams. They might make it, they might not. Don’t worry about it, because now is the time to focus on YOU. You’ll live off your tips and be super surprised at how minuscule your pay checks are after all those grueling hours.

You will slowly learn how to do adult-like things by imitation. You will find complex recipes on Pinterest and totally botch them. You’ll purchase grown-up clothes at Forever 21 only to find a gaping hole in your armpit at the end of the day. You will send out dozens of emotionally void resumes and cover letters to companies that you feel you are a perfect fit for and not hear back from them. Not even a “no thank you”. You will leave interviews feeling productively wrecked. You will try to play house with that cute guy you’ve been seeing off and on, but then realize he’s going nowhere in life and there’s no f**king way he’s going to drag you down with him. You’ll let your dishes pile up. You will consider it a great accomplishment when you actually check your mail and clean out your overflowing inbox. College grads, you will question your bachelor’s degree and its worth.

This horrible self-doubt will not last forever, I promise. Because you are unstoppable. You have the energy of a hundred suns (especially after that third cup of coffee) and you are convinced you will prevail against all odds: the crappy economy, your dwindling graduation money, the worried look your parents have on their face at all times. So you apply to grad school. You re-vamp your resume and become a job applying machine. You land an interview within the week and you nail it. You get the job and you take it, even though it only pays you ten dollars an hour.  But you can work with that because you know this is only the beginning. You’ll earn that raise within a year and you will undoubtedly move up within the company. And if you don’t, then you’ll find a new job. Because now you have more experience, more ink to put on that resume. What your degree has taught you is invaluable. It has taught you that you are able to juggle six classes, a radio show, friendships, a massive hangover, and still get straight A’s. It has taught you how to network. How to write that perfect e-mail. How to succeed in a difficult subject you are only taking because you need it to graduate. It has taught you how to pick friends and enemies. It has encouraged you to grow a backbone. Your college degree has taught you to persevere and you have done just that over these last few months. Bravo.

So what I’m saying here, is that life after college isn’t easy. You’re going to feel guilty, you will wonder whether you’re doing it right, whether you’re living up to your fullest potential and whether you’ll ever make it. You will start to think about whether you’ll ever get married, be able to afford a house and have kids. You’ll have these hyper-grown-up thoughts and freak out about them at least once a week.

This is where I’m supposed to tell you everything is going to be okay. And it is. But it’s up to YOU to make that happen! You spent the last four years kicking ass and taking names, pulling all-nighters, taking Buddhism classes you thought would be totally laid back but were the most difficult ones you’ve ever taken. You’ve joined clubs and put yourself out there before. Now is the time to channel all that energy into your new life. Your life after college.

If anyone can do it, I know it’s you. So congratulations, class of 2013. Don’t shine bright like a diamond, shine bright like the universe; you know you’ve got it in the palm of your hand.

Featured image via ShutterStock

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