For years, May and June were months that marked the end of a school year and the start of a summer that promised temporary respite from the harsh, fluorescent lighting and uncomfortable seats of classrooms.
In college, summer offered a break from term papers and academic pressures and replaced them with an ever-increasing amount of existential stress as you sought to further refine what you wanted to do so that your life wouldn’t become a series of crushing disappointments leading to a downward spiral of misery and of not being able to afford the next Starbucks trend ever again.
Or at least, that’s what felt like.
This time is different.
This summer is the last summer. In just a few short weeks you’ll be walking onto that stage in colorful, albeit expensive, robes to receive the fruits of four-plus arduous years while simultaneously trying your hardest to avoid being that guy who falls offstage at graduation.
A few seemingly-shorter weeks after that, you’ll be leaving the world of school and entering what seems like a distinct universe that is filled with work, bills and a general sense of needing to “properly adult.”
Though it seems like a massive deviation from what you already know, the reality is that it’s not that bad. Frankly, life right after college, while not without its challenges, is arguably easier–full of fewer stresses and responsibilities than before even after the addition of new ones.
Yes, you’re entering a whole new lifestyle. Yes, you’re probably moving away from your friends. Yes, you’re starting a real job soon–if you even have one–and most of your excuses for procrastination begin to slowly fall away as society dictates that you own up to yourself and your actions.
But in spite of all the fright, there’s one thing you need to know about it all:
A continuation of you
There have been three times in my life when the future made me timbers shiver.
- High school graduation to college
- The months leading to a study abroad program in France
- College graduation leading to a new job in a new city in a new state
Each time, not knowing what to expect from the new experience left me pondering the ample possibilities–good and bad–about what could be in the new direction my life was taking.
Here’s the thing: in each and every case, I adapted. In each and every case, the transition from what I used to do to what I began to do was so imperceptible that I just became what I needed to be to succeed in a new environment.
Moving from Raleigh to Richmond and from being a college student to a manager of 64+ people in the span of two months sounds terrifying. But only on paper. Like a child exploring a new playground, my first days were filled with exploration and–after understanding the contexts of my new environment and establishing a cadence for my days–just…became my reality.
Note, I didn’t say my new reality. Just my reality. There wasn’t one moment I could have pointed to to say “yup, that’s when I stopped being Raul the NC State student and became Raul the manager.” I was just always me. The extrovert. The optimist.
Like a child who just finished exploring a new playground, I know my way around my environment. I met great friends and have preferred hangout spots. I know my team’s attributes and can read my workplace like an open book just by looking and listening. Through it all, not once were the changes overbearing–or really even noticeable.
This is absolutely anecdotal evidence
And it may not do much–if anything–to assuage your concerns. After all, the only way to realize the difference is to live the difference.
But there’s one thing I want you to do, soon to be young, college grad: understand that you can do it.
Know that what you’re up against may seem like an existential shift, while in reality it’s just another step in a series of billions you will take in your lifetime. It just feels like the end of the line, pinky promise. There’s a German proverb:
Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is
Don’t fear the wolf. Embrace it. Give it a scratch behind its ears. Domesticate it and make it salivate at the ring of a bell. Call it a pupperino or a doggo or a big ‘ol floofer because at the end of the day that’s just what it is.
So enjoy the time you have left at your school, and get excited for what lies just around the riverbend.
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Cover image by Inbal Marilli