Graduation season brightens my heart. When I walk into bookstores and see Oh The Places You’ll Go prominently displayed, I remember the excitement and hope of being on the edge of a new era.
My first year after college was more challenging than I expected, and there are a few things I wish I had known when I embarked on that journey:
1. The excitement of bounding off on a new adventure – the Universe at your back, nothing but the future ahead – will become peppered with doubts.
I spent four years of college yearning to be done with college so I could move on to my real passions of writing, travel, spirituality, and yoga. (Yes, feel free to psychoanalyze that statement.)
So when I graduated, I deeply trusted in the unfolding of my next steps even though I didn’t know what they would look like. I imagined the years immediately after college would finally embody all the potential and freedom that I desired.
But the doubt that kept me from following my authentic dreams in college did not magically dissipate once I received a diploma. And our insecurities, relationship tendencies, and dysfunctional habits do not disappear either. When the magic of graduation wears off, we find ourselves face to face with ourselves once more.
2. You are not your accomplishments.
Nothing makes us realize how much we identify with our jobs and our majors until one day we walk across a stage and they are ripped away from us. They are squarely in the past.
Try answering the party question “So, what do you do?” when you’re fresh out of college. Maybe some shame rushes to your face. Maybe you crack a joke, maybe you stammer along for a while about the things you used to do. Maybe you’re well-adjusted and reply with a solid answer. Witness the reaction that arises in you.
3. Sharing your challenges during this time of life will be a healing salve.
We think we are untouchable islands with devastations that no one understands. We think we must be the only twenty-two year old in the world who goes from manifesting the future of her dreams to cradling her head in the bathroom stall of an office building and wondering if God may have made a mistake.
When I started sharing my feelings of purposelessness and confusion with friends, whether through my blog or shyly woven into conversations, I didn’t know these feelings were universal. When these friends replied that they too didn’t know what their dreams were anymore, that they were terrified sometimes of not knowing the next steps, I felt like they had thrown me an unexpected life jacket of understanding.
Find an empowerment posse of people who want to support one another, and talk about these tough topics. (If you don’t know anyone who fits the bill, contact me and we can start a small group.) For my 24th birthday party, I invited my closest girl friends over to sit in my living room and talk about this post-college era of our lives. We talked for hours about caterpillars clumsily turning into butterflies, about feeling like mush, about wondering “Is this it?” and being frozen in fear.
No one at my birthday party had The Answer, but everyone had breaths of life and anecdotes and snippets of guidance that inspired them in moments when they felt stuck. I went to sleep that night feeling like a supported piece of a loving Universe – a true revolution.
4. Your next steps will reveal themselves when you take action. Keep moving.
Go to community events that seem interesting, no matter what community you find yourself living in. Take local classes in activities that spark your interest, no matter how “useless” your rational mind tells you they are. Revitalize your sense of adventure.
During my first year out of college, I took a hula hooping class, tried Kundalini & Svaroopa yoga, and got certified in Reiki. I hung out at intention circles and womens groups. I started this blog and took up bowling as a weekend hobby. None of these activities saved me from the despair of believing I had no purpose, yet all of these activities were the key to my unfolding because they kept me in motion. When we are stuck in a rut we need to do tiny things to shift us out.
We do not find liberation in sitting at home in our misery. So when I start to come down with a frantic & self-hating case of “What Should I Do With My Life?!”-itis, I sit, and I breathe, and I do tiny things to shake me out of it. I stop a negative thought before it hijacks my entire day. I try in tiny micro-moments to let life after college unfold as it is unfolding.
These moments don’t last long. But the miracles happen in this space where we still believe in hope and possibility, the cracks where the light can get in. And this is where the true work begins.
Happy Graduation and Beyond,
The Fire Starter Sessions – Danielle LaPorte
Ask and It Is Given – Abraham-Hicks
Infinite Possibilities – Mike Dooley