Graduation szn is in full effect and it's been warming my heart to see so many smiling faces in robes and regalia up and down my timeline. I also can't believe that I'm officially three years past my undergraduate days. Even though it feels like it's been a long time since I was taking finals and preparing for a huge jump in my life - starting my career and moving away from Maryland for the first time in my life - my memories from that time are still fairly fresh in my mind.
My book club (shout out to Blake VP) is currently reading "Year of Yes" by the amazing Shonda Rhimes and though I haven't started the book yet, the title alone reminds me of my stance on life immediately following graduation: just say yes. After a grueling semester, both educationally and emotionally, I woke up on graduation day feeling like a runner who had just gone from a full sprint to a hard stop - I was reeling. I visited my cousin Cierra, New School class of 2018 and future curator extraordinaire, last night and our chat about how it can feel to move into this new phase of life drew up a few thoughts that I'd like to share. Here are a few ways that I was able to find my center and take advantage of my newfound post-grad freedom:
1) Live a little.
My senior year was pretty full of "no, can't go out, have to study/do work for my extracurricular activities" or "no, not feeling up to being around others right now." While there is always benefit to knowing when to say no and take time for yourself, there is a time to allow yourself the space to enjoy the time you've now reclaimed. I personally believe there's a difference between turning down time with loved ones because your obligations are standing in the way and saying no because you need to re-charge: in one instance, you have the agency to decide and in the other, your schedule is deciding for you.
Regardless of what your post-graduate circumstance is (ducks in a row or still figuring things out), you now have the responsibility of thanking God and yourself for getting you through yet another life milestone. Relishing that moment, relishing the fruits of your labor, and taking the time to be proud of yourself are all so important. If that looks like sleeping for a week straight for you, great. If that looks like going to every happy hour and graduation cookout that your city has to offer, great. If that means devising a master plan to get yourself professionally and/or personally ready to take on your next steps, great. In any of those instances, live in your best Aunt Maxine truth and reclaim your time however you choose to after a few years of giving your love, peace, and happiness to the pursuit of your degree(s).
2) Get comfortable with discomfort.
Graduating feels weird. Your post-graduate mood may not always be joy - sometimes it will be uncertainty, sometimes it will be confusion, sometimes it will be exhaustion. One phrase that I hear often during my yoga classes that I also try to apply to my life is something along the lines of "allow yourself the space to move through any feelings or thoughts that cross your mind during your practice without scolding yourself for feeling or thinking them."
Your world is literally changing, maybe in every imaginable way. You've spent years getting comfortable with people, places, and spaces that may no longer be a part of your daily life after graduation in the same way that they have been for memorable history. That can be a tough pill to swallow and it can send even the most emotionally stable among us onto an emotional roller coaster ride. First, know that you're not alone. Second, rely on your support systems (therapists, family, friends) and over-communicate how the change is impacting you as you need to. Third, remind yourself over and over again that weeping may endure for a night, but joy really does come in the morning. It can take months, if not years, to fully settle into the reality that school is behind you and the rest of your life is now in front of you. In hindsight, I wish I had spent more time thinking of ways that I could shape my future instead of mourning the loss of my familiar, comfortable past.
3) Switch it up.
Since life may in many ways be turning itself on its head for you, show the change who's boss. Take the time to take up that hobby, learn that language, start that podcast, make that new friend, reconnect with those loved ones. When you set goals for yourself, big or small, you take ownership of your accomplishments moving forward. When you're in school, your milestones are to some extent set for you. Dean's list awardees are announced regularly, graduation dates and years may shift, but you know they're coming, grades are released like clockwork at the end of each semester.
Post-graduate life can feel much more ambiguous as it pertains to pre-defined milestones. That doesn't mean that you won't have promotions to look forward to or personal milestones to get excited about. What it does mean is that in the interim, it may help for you to create your own mile markers based on activities that you pursue for yourself. Applaud yourself for making it to the gym on a regular basis. Pat yourself on the back for calling your best friend once every other week to check in and catch up. Treat yourself to an açaí bowl for sticking to your content calendar for the month. Creating the space to celebrate your accomplishments, big and small, will help you remind yourself that even in the absence of school-scheduled awards and ceremonies, you are very much so STILL THE BOMB.
How are you celebrating your accomplishments either immediately or well post graduation? Talk to me about it on Instagram!