It’s been an entire year since my college graduation. One whole trip around the sun since me and my friends were all in the same room together, since I walked across the stage in front of hundreds of people and received my diploma, since I hugged my professors goodbye. And as I pulled away from my college town, leaving behind some of the best memories of my life, I wanted nothing more than to hit pause, and reverse. To speed backwards to the late nights, the tears, the laughs, the roommates that became friends and the friends that became family. I didn’t want to go home and feel the finality of no longer being a student.
As it turns out, life’s a pretty good teacher too. If I could transport myself back 8760 hours ago, I’d hand my younger self this letter and a copy of “Sign of the Times” as a gesture of all the good things to come:
Hold on. You’re not going to believe this, but your best memories are not behind you. When the rubble of everything you think you know stops crumbling around you and the dust clears, you will see that this world is full of infinite possibilities – your life is just beginning, and there’s a few things I want you to know:
You’re going to learn that life is not that serious. You’ll fight this one.You’ll try to make life as hard as you can at every turn. But we only get one shot here. One single life on this planet. And it’s yours to do whatever the hell you want with. If you want to go climb Mt. Everest, go climb Mt. Everest. If you want to move to Canada, move to Canada (yes, THAT happens). If you want to be a stand-up comedian… you get the picture, right? The only thing standing in your way is yourself.
You’ll figure out that friendships don’t get any easier. It takes effort to keep in touch with your friends when you’re not all confined to a classroom. When they don’t live around the corner anymore, it’s easy to lose touch. If you want to stay in touch with your friends after college, you have to work at it, just like any relationship.
On the flip side, people are going to come and go… so hold on loosely. You’ll learn to let them leave. The people that are meant to be in your life will stay in your life, but their presence might have to take on different forms. Sometimes it turns into a “Happy Birthday! Hope you’re doing great!!” text, and that’s okay. We grow, we change, and the people we surround ourselves with will change too. Trying to hold on to people when it’s not working anymore is not worth anyone’s energy.
You’ll find inspiration in your friends doing amazing things. Your friends are going to get the job. They’re going to graduate college. They’re going to move to different states or move out of their parents houses. They’re going to fall in love. They’re going to fill you in on all the gruesome details of mortuary school. And you are going to be in awe of it all. You might cheer them on from afar, or you might get to celebrate over facetime or weekly lunches, but they’re going to inspire you everyday. That’s why you picked each other.
You’re going to have to open your ears and your heart if you want to grow. You’ve just spent three years surrounded by college students, but the world is full of people from different walks of life. Listen to new stories. Be compassionate whether you understand them or not. Ask questions, and then really listen to the answers. This one is important. I don’t care what your differences are. We all have to share this planet, and you’re going to be a better person if you try to understand other people instead of screaming over them when you disagree.
There is no better time to follow your dreams than right this second. There’s a pressure to hop right on the American Dream bandwagon the second you step off the stage, but don’t. Figure out what your own dream is and dream it like your life depends on it. Don’t wake up in ten, twenty, fifty years, on your death bed, wishing you’d started that business you always dreamed about but didn’t because someone with their unimportant opinions about your life told you it was a stupid idea. If you don’t know what your dream is yet, keep an eye out for it. Read The Crossroads of Should and Must or Life On Purpose and figure out why you’re here.
There are so many good things coming your way. Only a fraction of it is going to be easy. This is where the real work comes in, and sometimes it might be so terrifying that you find yourself sleepless and staring at the ceiling at 3 A.M. When you reach that storm, bunker down – good things are on the horizon.
Good luck, my friend.
Congratulations to everyone graduating this month, and a special shout out to my Illinois State University family and all the future alums!