Among bittersweet farewells and joyful celebrations, the Class of 2017 has officially graduated. Congratulations! (Or as my brother would say, conGRADulations!) Through many hours of studying —and probably more not— we have all grown and learned together, unaware of the irreplaceable bond being created between us meanwhile. Standing among the sea of personalized graduation caps and picture-taking parents, I had come to the realization how much my classmates have become my community. I would have never thought that that one group I got stuck with in my business communications class would end up being my brunch buddies or that I would go visit a friend across the country with whom I met and worked on a consulting project my freshman year, but it’s these connections that the University of Washington, and now can say alma matter, the Foster School of Business, have so generously left me with.
Now that the festivities have died down, our fresh, bright-eyed generation approaches summer with a mix of emotions: excitement and relief intertwined with fear and uncertainty; eagerness and hope, marked by anxiety and confusion. Here we are, after doing the same job for the last 16 years of our lives, with another diploma to show for it? While some graduates saddle up for their start date at a mega technology or accounting firm and others move back home to figure out their lives, both in their own respective way are unsure of what the future may hold.
This past Saturday I attended the Baccalaureate Brunch put on by University Ministries at UPC to honor and celebrate graduating seniors. The INN, a college-aged ministry at UPC, is one that I have been attending throughout my four years at UW and has become a community that I have loved for its character, mission, values, and most importantly its people. Being in the latter group of the aforementioned graduates, this period of transition has been challenging and hard to accept, especially for someone who loves plans, productivity and anything opposite of rest. But its in these past few months that I am honing in on how and what this critical period means; and I must give a huge thank you to Ryan for sharing these small but much-needed words of wisdom.
Don’t manufacture feelings to make a moment amazing.
It’s been said that social media compares our behind-the-scenes to everyone’s highlight reel, and yet we still try to create the “perfect” moment. Emotions are insincerely felt to fit the occasion and we become so consumed with comparing our own lives that we forget to appreciate all that we are in the moment we have, whether that is being newly-hired for Microsoft or McDonald’s, or just enjoying brunch with our parents talking about the weather. The reality is that not every moment is spectacular, and honestly, you don’t have to act like it is. I’ve learned over the last four years (and am continuing to learn), that the days that nothing happens are just as meaningful as the day that something happens, though it may not feel like it. It is in these “boring” moments that prayer and patience become profound and we come to fully enjoy these plain, simple moments, while also expecting a greater, extraordinary moment ahead.
You have permission to be ordinary.
This struck home with me as I continue to maneuver being in limbo post-grad. When I look at other classmates around me moving to San Francisco to work at an international accounting firm or becoming financial analysts at Nordstrom, I question why I don’t have something grand and exciting lined up. And right there is my own and somewhat of society’s fault. When did successfully graduating with a college education not be enough? When did being a kind, passionate, loving daughter and friend being not be exciting? When did working at a local coffee shop serving others become less than being CEO of Google? Our lives and the expectations we have for ourselves to do better, be the biggest and the best have made mundane moments unworthy of acknowledgement, but living a life in genuine relationship with others and being fully present could not be further from the definition of “boring”. Normal should be the norm and is reality in its rawest form. Ordinary is not boring, and neither are you.
You are the one, unique, irreplicable you.
There will NEVER be another specific and uniquely created YOU. You are the only you that there will ever be! How crazy is that?!
While college degrees make us the same, what makes us different is not the degrees themselves, but what each of you will do with it to become the special, unique and irreproducible person you are meant to be. When you look back at this time in your life, there will be a small difference between not having a job for one month or three months, from starting grad school when you are 21 or 22, or from traveling around Europe for 3 weeks or 4. So for those, including myself, here’s a little inspirational perspective on all that we have waiting for us.
At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.
At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.
At age 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer.
At age 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.
At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.
At age 28, Wayne Coyne (from The Flaming Lips) was a fry cook.
At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.
At age 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker.
At age 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.
Julia Child released her first cookbook at age 49.
Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the Editor-in-Chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at age 40.
Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 38.
Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at age 42.
Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 41.
Morgan Freeman landed his first MAJOR movie role at age 52.
Kathryn Bigelow only reached international success when she made The Hurt Locker at age 57.
Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until age 76.
Louise Bourgeois wasn’t featured in the Museum of Modern Art until she was 71.
Whatever your dream is, it is not too late to achieve it. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 21. Hell, it’s okay if you don’t even know what your dream is yet. Even if you’re flipping burgers, waiting tables or answering phones today, you never know where you’ll end up tomorrow.
Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it.
Never tell yourself you missed your chance.
Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.
You can do it. Whatever it is.
So to answer your questions: Do I know what I am going to do after graduation? Nope. Do I know what I am doing this summer? Not a clue. Do I know where I will be living? Can’t say. Do I know where I want to work or what career I want to have? Not exactly. I don’t even know what I am having for dinner. But you know what? That’s all okay.
“One life on this earth is all that we get, whether it is enough or not enough, and the obvious conclusion would seem to be that at the very least we are fools if we do not live it as fully and bravely and beautifully as we can.” ~ Frederick Buechner