So, you’ve just graduated, and you’re really proud of yourself. You should be! I mean, college is hard; there are projects, exams, and endless piles of laundry that we are expected to just figure out how to do all on our own.
You did it, though. You made it through, walked across that stage, took those pictures, accepted the congrats from your friends and family, and now… wait, now what?
All of your friends have had set plans since, like, the first day of kindergarten, was it?
He’s going off to law school. She just got a job at some big accounting firm. I think that one is trying to be a doctor, or a nurse, maybe.
And you? You’re still not quite sure.
Let me let you in on a little secret: it’s okay to still not know.
Know why? Because most of them don’t either!
After he graduates law school, he’ll be slaving away at a desk, drowning under student loans and legal papers he still doesn’t fully understand, and he’ll realize that going to law school because he couldn’t figure out what he actually wanted to do may not have been the smartest plan. Like the other countless people who settle, though, he’s now stuck in a life he didn’t choose, all because he felt the pressure to answer society’s daunting question:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
But you’re smart.
You know that your dreams are within reach, just beyond that horizon. You know that if you just give yourself a little extra time, and a little extra push, you will blossom into the person you’ve always known you had the potential to become. We just have to be brave enough to break the mold. We have to be brave enough to follow the advice of the famous poet, Robert Frost, and take the road less traveled, hoping it will make all the difference!
And it will.
The world is your oyster, as they say!
I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by friends and family who believe in my dreams as much as I do, and have encouraged me every day to follow my passions to create a life for myself that I am happy and excited to live. I hope if you have not had the same experience, that I can be that supportive voice for you today, at this very moment. I hope you feel inspired to take a leap of faith, and believe that the life you want is possible.
Never settle down a path simply because it seems easy, or more socially acceptable. Who cares what they think!? They’ll be praising you someday when you’ve accomplished more than they could have ever dreamed.
Anyone who has ever made an impact in the world, from scientific discoveries to social change, faced opposition, doubts, and “haters”. Don’t let that stop you from achieving success in anything your unique brain has concocted.
Never be ashamed that you’re different. Imagine if we were all the same! What an astoundingly boring world that would be for us.
Ellen DeGeneres, one of my all-time favorite human beings and biggest role models, is one of the most successful women in America today, but she wasn’t always. She worked several jobs from selling vacuums to waiting tables to painting homes. At one point, she was sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a flea-infested basement apartment. Sometime later, she found her calling as an entertainer, and after enjoying some well-deserved success, she hit another professional setback after bravely coming out as a lesbian. She persevered through the prejudice she faced and now serves as a symbol of success, acceptance, kindness, and love for many.
But, of course, she did not find this success by sitting at home waiting for it to come to her. In order to reach the stars, we must leap. We must push past our comfort zones, go out into the world and discover new things, have some new experiences, do things that sound a little crazy!
Because one things leads to another, which helps you discover some crazy/hidden talent you never even knew you had!
Did you know there’s someone whose job description is to rehabilitate orphaned wombats? I learned that recently while watching a nature show with my dad.
Yes, I know that makes me kind of lame, and no, I am not at all ashamed of that.
My point, though, is this: there are infinite things you can do with your life, some of which you may not have even heard of yet! So don’t pick a standard job if you know you’ll hate it just because you don’t know what else to do.
Traveling is one of the best ways to discover who you really are as a person and to find your place in this crazy, weird, diverse, magical spec in space we earthlings call home. Venture out into it and discover something new. You may even realize that things you once considered certainties about yourself and the world no longer hold true.
And don’t give me that “I don’t have the money” excuse!
In today’s travel-crazed society, there are plenty of ways to do it for the low-low.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF, is an organization which provides living and food in exchange for farm work all over the globe. Millennials are loving this super cheap way to see the world, have new experiences, and meet new people, all while spending next to no money!
Also, there are opportunities around the world from Teach for America to teaching abroad that will pay you to teach subjects like English for different lengths of time. Many programs end up paying just enough to break even with cost of living, while others, specifically in Asia, will actually leave you with a profit.
Whatever it is that your heart is pulling you toward, follow it. Listen to what it is telling you, even if it’s only in the faintest of whispers.
Dive into everything headfirst. Don’t waste your time or energy worrying about failure. Every new opportunity you accept is an experience to enrich your life in some way or another, whether it provides you with knowledge, happiness, experience, or simply points you down your next path.
So, next time someone asks you, “What are you doing now that you’ve graduated?” have the confidence to tell them, “Whatever I want!”
Now get out there and be awesome.