No one can prepare you for life after college.
You can study the manuals – read every book you can get your hands on, learn from the people who have somehow made the leap and survived to tell the tale – but you’ll never be prepared enough.
I don’t say this to sound pessimistic. I say this to be honest.
Before I walked out of college for the last time, I could have never anticipated feeling the way I do about what lies before me.
For the last 16 years, our lives have revolved around school. 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, it’s been the same mantra:
1. Get the grade (so you can…)
2. Get into a good school (so you can… )
3. Get a good job (so you can…)
The “what” feels like standing on the edge of a dizzyingly high cliff. And peering down into the dark, foggy abyss with your toes dangling off the edge and your heart in your throat.
If you’re like me, you’ve been hustling hard for a long time to get to this moment, and you realize it’s everything you ever wanted. But you’ve never been so terrified in your entire life.
Welcome to post-grad. The real other side. (Like the one Adele sings about. But different.)
I’ve learned some “Lessons from the Other Side”. The after-graduation other side. The after-love other side. The after-you-check-all-the-boxes-and-are-left-wondering-what-the-hell’s-next other side. You do a lot of reevaluating when your life is in transition; when your room is full of piles of your belongings, when everything that matters to you is stacked in boxes.
I’m waiting to make a cross country move to a faraway state I’ve only visited once. I’m waiting to start a brand new job in a new city where I don’t know anyone except my co-workers. And I dreamed of having someone to take my hand and make the leap with me, but God had different plans.
Growth doesn’t happen without change, I’ve learned.
Here are a couple other lessons I learned along the way:
- Learn to love who you are becoming.
Become more fixated on the future than the past. Get to know yourself inside and out. Love who God is making you into.
For a while I let a lot of things distract me from taking care of myself. It feels really selfish, sometimes, to sit down, examine who you are, in all your failings and successes, and dedicate yourself to getting better. I assure you: it’s not selfish. It took me going to counseling and hearing from a woman much smarter than I: you have to be okay with yourself before you love anyone else.
Stare yourself in the eyes. Size yourself up. Let people you love point out your flaws. Then sit down and get to work. Through the lens of Scripture, be sanctified. Challenge yourself to be ten times better than the person you were six months ago. Reevaluate. Shave the edges off. Change. Feel free to.
2. Don’t be surprised if you care more.
Just rejoice that you have the ability to love without bounds.
For a while I’ve felt like a chump because I’m really sensitive. I cried the other night, sitting in my friend Becca’s living room. It was the night before she got married. We were all lounging around on the couch watching Friends and I looked over at Becca, at Casey and Natalie, my three best friends from college, and I started bawling. Right there. Everyone thought I was nuts. But I realized in that moment we would never be here again like this. Becca was getting married the next day. I’m going to Texas in a couple weeks. Life after this moment is permanently, irrevocably, and forever different.
Dramatic, life-changing moments like that happen all the time.
Why should we fault ourselves when we recognize them for what they are?
That said, I’m done getting mad when I’m still crying over a wound, five months later. When you feel something, don’t be afraid to feel it all the way. Don’t feel bad if no one else is crying. Or if everyone else looks like they’re okay. We all process life differently. And even if you feel more than other people, rejoice! Don’t feel like a chump. Your feelings are valid. They mean that you love with everything in you. Never regret loving with your whole heart. Even when you get hurt. (Random secret for you: That’s why I bought a shirt that says “I Don’t Regret It” after the most difficult goodbye I’ve ever said. Feelings aren’t for chumps. Regretting the way you felt is.)
3. Stop hitting the blender.
An analogy from my friend Eddie that changed my life. I’ve spent a lot of time fixating on negative events or thoughts. Rehashing them over and over again. Even though it’s in the past and something I can’t change or affect, I still think about it. My counselor called it “ruminating.”
I ask “Why.” “Why.” “Why?” “WHY!?!” Over. And over. And OVER. It’s a lot like hitting a blender when you’re making a smoothie. At some point everything is blended. STOP HITTING THE BUTTON WHEN YOUR SMOOTHIE IS READY. Ya know?
There’s only so much you can think about something before it becomes unhealthy.
Let go of that regret about that person and that situation and “Oh I wish I could just say-” let it go. Let it heal. Focus on now. Stop hitting the blender. Enjoy the smoothie and let the chips fall where they may. I take a lot of peace in knowing God is the one putting all of the smoothie’s ingredients together and He never makes anything bad.
Before you can fully embrace what lies ahead for you over the cliff, you have to let go of the negative thoughts that surface as a result of change. Transition brings a lot to the surface.
Let it heal.
Let it go. Trust God. Take the leap.
[featured photo credit: Andrew Hile]