Pictured: author Lydia Anglin, senior at Cornell University.
Dear Fellow Members of the Class of 2018,
Unlike your mom, aunt, grandpa, neighbors, classmates, and random strangers on the street, I am not going to ask you:
“What are you doing after graduation?”
"Are you going to grad school?”
"Where are you working?"
"Did you find somewhere to live yet?"
"Are you excited?!"
Cue panic attack. For many college seniors, myself very much included, these questions are the absolute worst. I am here to tell you that you don’t owe anyone a response.
This stage is about growth and exploration, and contrary to societal pressures, it’s okay not to have all the answers. There is a strange nirvana that rushes over you at 3AM while eating ice cream and contemplating your life’s purpose where you ultimately come to the conclusion that you will be okay.
To be clear, I am not advocating for you to abandon your ambitions and post-grad pursuits. I am, however, encouraging you to keep pushing forward and prioritize being kind to yourself. We need to stop basing our self-worth and life trajectory on the successes of our peers. Your roommate may have been recruited by NASA and will be the youngest woman to fly to Mars, but you are not your roommate. You are talented, powerful, and wonderful in your own way ... and never liked science to begin with. Job offer or not, graduating college is something to be incredibly proud of. Even if your 4 years didn't pan out the way you intended, you're here. You're doing this. College is so much more than a degree, it's an experience and your mistakes and successes have brought you to where you stand today: adulthood.
Invest in yourself now; this is the time to be selfish. Financial concerns are a true consideration, particularly on my end, but sometimes the slower, less popular path is better for you emotionally, developmentally, and financially in the long run. Many people continuously switch to different companies and industries throughout their careers, which only reemphasizes the point that growth continues post-graduation. You do not have to return to your internship company. You do not have to go straight to law school. You do not have to live with your friends. You can change your mind. I have already met so many recent grads who regret this stage because of the extreme pressure we put ourselves under to figure everything out, the desire to have answers to the above questions taking precedent. Give yourself room to grow.
So, take a deep breath, take your time, and enjoy the moments that you will truly reflect upon after graduation. The freedom that we have as undergrads to explore is unparalleled. Cross things off your college bucket list – go meet that professor, try something you’ve wanted to for years, continue to apply for opportunities, and be open to the unknown. This is the time to do it. Don’t cheat yourself of the chance to close out your college experience on a high note. In the words of Kendrick Lamar, “we gon be alright.”
Your Fellow Stressed Senior
Images courtesy of Kelechi Mpamaugo