I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately and how our college graduation was TEN years ago.
What madness that was, and how young we were at that time. I look at the graduates today and I can’t help but feel that they are somehow wiser and “older” than we were at 21. Maybe it’s the Internet? Social media? (Thank GOD we went to college before Facebook.) Our memories exist in shoe boxes and not within the permanent and perpetual world of the Interwebs. Bullet(s) dodged, my friend.
I honestly have no idea what I was thinking at that time, or what my expectations of life were. I knew I was heading off to grad school in the fall, and I do remember honestly believing that it would just be more of the same after four years of college. In fact, I desperately hoped it would be more of the same because I wasn’t ready to leave school yet. Some people, like you, were just done with the whole lifestyle after fifteen years of classrooms. But I wasn’t ready to shrug off the routine of the school year (and we all know how much I love routine) and I was even more hesitant to solely provide all the context of my life. I needed something bigger than me to set boundaries, to tell me what to do and when, where to go, and how. Graduate school seemed like a logical next step, mostly because I’d never had a job that didn’t involve memorizing daily specials until that point. And then I walked into grad school and realized how out of my element I was, and I made a bit of a mess of things. I cried a lot. In public.
I wish I could say that I grew a lot in those two years of graduate school but, sadly, I know I didn’t. I stubbornly refused personal growth, preferring instead to wallow in victimhood and firmly believe that bad things were happening to me. I crashed my car, I was broke and in a dead-end relationship, and still I clung to the idea that some new, amazing life was going to come knocking at any moment. I had no concept of self-betterment and no inkling that perhaps, if I wanted things to change, I should take some responsibility and initiative. Just as I firmly believed that everyone bad that happened, happened to me, so I believed that good things would simply fall into my lap. I had some serious disillusions of grandeur. I did walk away with a Masters degree, so I suppose the whole debacle could be termed a success, but in retrospect I think I missed the boat on a lot of important learning moments.
So why am I reflecting on these things in this letter to you most of which, up until now, have ostensibly been travel-based? I suppose it’s the time of year, watching these fresh-faced young things with big ideas of changing the world heading out. I imagine that they are, despite appearances, no better off than we were at the time. They have had more experiences, and they may have been learning foreign languages since nursery school and heard Baby Einstein while in the womb, but the world is no friendlier a place to newbies like the recently graduated. Best of luck, kids – you’re in for a rude awakening. I sort of feel sorry for them.
I suppose I feel a common thread with these students because I also suddenly find myself as the newbie, thrown into a whole different ball game with different rules, different players, and – guess what – I’m back to being a bench warmer. I’m the one who came packing with a whole set of expectations from some completely different reality. Only, this time, I’m ten years older and smart enough to know that if I don’t like something or I want something to change, I’m going to have to do it myself. Make the best of things. All of that shit.
So, here’s my graduation advice for the first ten years out to all of those fresh young faces, and what I would say if anyone ever thought I had something important enough to say at a graduation. This is also the advice I give to myself regularly.
YOUR FIRST TEN YEARS OUT:
1. Be polite. It will get you far. This can mean choosing your battles.
2. If you’re uncontrollably pissed off, confused, upset, whatever – get on a bike or a treadmill or out in nature and don’t get off or come back in until you feel really tired. Then – go to bed. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll have a much better picture of what your next steps should be.
3. Is it really worth it? If the answer is anything but a solid “yes,” don’t do it.
4. You probably won’t figure anything out anything of significance until at least 28. Some people are faster learners and might get their shit together before then, and they’ll have to be the ones buying drinks for everyone else. Don’t worry – it comes back around, and you’ll be the one buying the drinks at some point.
5. Never count on getting anything more than 50% of your security deposit back, but live respectfully as though you’ll get it all.
6. Lots and lots of good things happen after midnight, but only if you don’t have to get up before ten AM the next morning.
7. Sit still. Sometimes you can’t force things or control outcomes. There will be things that simply “happen,” outside of your control, and remembering that you can take some time to react can be a very powerful feeling of control when everything else is spinning.
8. You have to try everything in your twenties. Your thirties are for getting to say no to the things you didn’t like. Like meatloaf and standing in lines to get into clubs.
9. There is a LOT of value of ladder climbing within an organization if you can swing it. People remember the person who made the copies and coffee and will respect and applaud your promotion if you did all of those menial tasks to the best of your ability.
10. Drink lots and lots of water. Think you’re drinking enough? You’re not.
I’m sure I’m supposed to add something here about sunscreen but if this day and age (and Lindsay Lohan’s mom) hasn’t scared that into you, it’s worthless for me to repeat it. But the rest of it has served me well or are lessons that I learned the hard way. Especially the security deposit one.
In other news, heading off to Sri Lanka next week to celebrate my 32nd birthday! I’ll come back with pictures and more long-winded stories for you but, for the time being, let’s raise a toast to the Class of 2014 and hope that they have just as much fun over the next decade as we have had. With more to be had.
Much love for now and more later, Insh’Allah,
The New Glitterati