Class of 2018: congratulations, you did it! You survived four (or maybe three, or maybe four and a half, or maybe six) years of college, you got through one last set of final exams, and you walked across that stage and accepted your hard-earned diploma.
But once you graduate, there’s another hurdle you still need to leap: questions about what happens next.
They come from people like your chatty next-door neighbor, your grandma, that random girl from high school, and your friends’ parents. They come when you least expect it: on the elliptical at the gym, in the aisles at the grocery store, and at any sort of family gathering.
“So, what are your plans for the fall?”
“Have you found a job yet?”
“Congrats on graduating! What are you doing now?”
For some, the answers to questions about your post-grad life are straightforward: maybe you have a job lined up, or you’re starting grad school in the fall, or you have some clearly defined plan for what happens next in your life.
Others aren’t so lucky. Whether you’re struggling to find your first grown-up job, or just aren’t sure where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing come September, rest assured that you aren’t alone. The questions you’re probably being asked, and the reactions you receive for your answers, can often make you feel like you’ve made a mistake somewhere along the line, especially if you don’t have the perfect cookie-cutter explanation for the start of the next chapter of your life.
That’s because we’re used to having our life paths carefully planned out for us; we’re accustomed to knowing what the next step is. You go to elementary school, and then middle school, and then high school. Many of us know by the time we graduate high school where we’ll be going off to college in the fall. Then we have four (or three or five or six) years of highly structured semesters, summers of internships and part-time jobs, and semesters abroad in amazing places.
But once you graduate college, the path you take can alter dramatically from what you’re used to. For once in your life, you may not know where you’ll be living or what you’ll be doing in September. It’s unsettling and, with college loan repayments looming, a little scary.
But change, no matter how scary or unfamiliar it may seem, is more often than not a good thing. The better we can deal with uncertainty, the more prepared we will be for a fabulous life that is anything but certain. This is a time in our lives when it’s perfectly okay to not know exactly what we’re doing. Some people have it together better than others, and that’s great for them. But don’t be too harsh on yourself because you don’t have that perfect job lined up, or you don’t know quite what to say to your nosy next-door neighbor when she asks about your post-grad plans.
Instead take a deep breath, relax, and know that a world of possibilities awaits you after graduation. Maybe you’ll travel, or maybe you’ll apply to five million jobs, or maybe you’ll live at home for a little while before making your next epic move. There’s no right or wrong path, and you’ll figure out yours eventually.
This is an exciting time, and you have an amazing opportunity. Allow yourself some time to soak in the excitement that comes with having choices and with starting over. And then go out there and do something incredible.