Five years ago today, I was donning a cap and gown, sitting for four hours in Gill Learning Center at McDaniel College with the aspirations of making a difference in the world. While it may not be much to some, I was the first woman and first member of my family to receive a bachelor’s degree. I wasn’t expected to graduate college, and in fact, many of my former teachers throughout school might be surprised that the chief disruption of the classroom made it to this point (How many times did I sit in the Principal’s office? I had reserved seating all throughout Elementary and Middle School…quite proud of this ). In fact, I can’t believe how far I have come and how much I have learned along the way. This weekend was my reunion, and while I did not trek back to “The Hill,” I reflected on this moment and the memories from my undergraduate career.
So, I figured now is the time to share my advice with the graduating Class of 2009, as they approach this moment of leaving college off to the working world, grad school, or traveling the world for a year, as they find themselves. While many Commencement speakers might be more eloquent, I figured that a victim of reality might be a better speaker. In fact, I wished the speaker at my Commencement shared these remarks with the graduates of the Class of 2004.
First and foremost, life after college is not easy. This is a no duh moment, as you are living at home with Mom and Dad, or in a studio apartment staring at your student loan statement wondering how in the hell did you get to this point. Don’t worry, five years later, I still sit here in a state of shock, figuring out how I am going to make ends meet each month. You live and learn from these moments. While there are budgets, rent payments, student loan payments, and credit card payments, you will learn that there are relationships made that will strengthen and provide challenges.
Second, your path changes course…better seek out a navigational beacon. Trust me, I thought I would save the world and strike gold ($$) within five years. I did not strike gold (if you know where I can do this, please let me know), and I don’t know what difference I am making, though I think my writing is contributing to something. I changed my career destination. Originally, I thought I would become a successful lawyer, living in New York City, and married with two children. Haha…this did not happen. Along the way, I changed course towards politics, and I am still looking for my Prince Charming. These things happen, so be prepared for some disappointments, along with the joys that come from these changes. It’s all a part of the ebb and flow of life.
Third, I would always suggest this one. “Don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out alive.” National Lampoon’s Van Wilder was right about this one. You need to laugh, have fun, and enjoy everything (even the bad times). I know I have not always taken this advice, but looking back at these past five years, I have to laugh at some of my stupid mistakes, the bad times, and most importantly, the good times. I know that stupid mistakes will be made, smart decisions will be made, and each will offer a valuable lesson. This also applies to relationships. Some of the strongest relationships come after you receive your degree. I can attest to this, as I have made some close friendships over the past five years that will last a lifetime.
Congratulations to the Class of 2009…YOU DID IT!! (Elle Woods from Legally Blonde is right about this one.) Have a drink of virtual Champagne on me!