True Learning Begins after College
It’s a crisp spring morning in East Lansing, Michigan, one that, in my case, is rare for so many reasons. First, the weather is actually cooperating, something that can’t often be said for the state of Michigan. Secondly and more importantly, the mood is especially celebratory because I am graduating from Michigan State University--with honors! All of those hours spent studying, and the ones spent...well, not studying. All of the pressures of exams, paying for school, and joining clubs. It was all finally, mercifully, done. It all felt worth it. As I embrace my family after the ceremony, a tear (or many tears) of happiness fall down my face, tears for new beginnings and a journey well-traveled. But as I reflect on these joyful moments, I’d be lying if I said at least one of those tears wasn’t out of fear for what was to come.
With leaving college comes a new life that is without a readymade structure. In school we have a schedule that pretty much makes itself. We have student discounts. Student lenders who don’t make us pay pretty much until after we’re done. Once we’ve graduated, we have...life-altering decisions. A job search. Friends moving all over the world. For many of us, it can feel like so many questions are popping up at once. I felt like I had none of the answers.
I would sit up in my bed at my mother’s house staring at the ceiling, searching for what to do next. The difficulty was that I was the only one who could find that answer for myself. I was unmotivated, unproductive, and depressed. I realized that my accolades from college guaranteed me nothing in the real world. I was totally lost and thus totally lost belief in myself. But in these darkest moments that had come after the ultimate high of graduation, with my back against the wall, I found myself. I realized that to build some semblance of a foundation for my life, I needed to change both my outlook and my approach. Instead of trying to figure everything out at once, I broke down each concern, each responsibility, to smaller goals and moments of exploration to craft a life for myself. As soon as
I did this, things started falling into place. I found my passion for film. I was given the opportunity to write for one of the biggest papers in my hometown of Detroit. I immediately started doing film related work for a corporate branding company in Lansing. No longer was I locked up in my room, searching. Now I was out in the world trying-- and doing.
In hindsight, many of my concerns weren’t as pressing as I made them out to be starting on graduation day. My loans didn’t go into repayment for six months. I was only 22, not 62, so I have some times to figure things out. I made it through college with my degree, so I obviously have SOME sort of a skillset. My point is that rarely in life does the worst possible scenario reflect the actual circumstances in our lives. By focusing on our own individual journeys, each of us has the ability to create a life that calms the waters in the present and generates a tidal wave of success in the future. Feeling lost or confused is normal even for those graduates who think they have this adult thing all figured out. The truth is that we never have it all figured out. The key is using this to our advantage, cultivating a spirit that is innovative in finding ways to use our uncertainty and curiosity to take care of our practical concerns now while we settle down other aspects of the big picture of our lives.