A letter to my younger self <on graduation>
First of all.. please please please give yourself a pat on the back. No matter what happened (or didn’t happen) in the last four years, you deserve to be proud of yourself. You deserve to be acknowledged for all of the effort that you’ve exerted to truly LIVE these last four years. You showed up for class, wrote a gazillion papers, organized in the face of discrimination, invested in relationships, stood up for your friends, swam in the ocean, hiked up mountains, traveled abroad, constantly pushed your introverted self to GET OUT THERE and experience the world.. and most importantly tried to be honest with yourself about who you are and why you do the things you do.
And after you give yourself some congratulations.. I want you to take a second and forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for the conversations that didn’t go how you planned, for the relationships that didn’t have nice, neat endings, for the days you were hungover and not feeling your best, for the professors you never got to know, and for your own ignorance that may have caused harm you’re not even aware of.
I know that you’re so freaking terrified of what comes next.. you might be wondering if you’ve sold your soul to the corporate machine, if you’re running in the opposite direction of your dreams by moving back to Minnesota, if you’ll ever feel as FREE as you did in the last few years. And honestly, those are real fears. There are some things that will never be the same. And there are other things that you’re going to have to work really really hard for (especially that FREE feeling you are so worried about).
The good news is… nothing is out of your control (no matter how much it might feel that way). The danger comes when you give up your control.. when you start to believe that your fate is sealed, and that there is no turning back. This is a lie.
Ultimately, you’re going to wake up tomorrow the exact same person you are today (although you might have a bit of a sunburn.. because as I recall you will drive your Astro van to Ventura and fall asleep in the sand with no sunscreen). The same amazing people will be in the world with you, the same incredible destinations will be just on the other end of a plane ticket, and opportunities to be pushed to your edge (and beyond) are waiting happily to take you even higher.
The one thing that does change.. is that no one is going to be telling you what “this semester” is supposed to be like. For the first time in your life.. it is truly going to be UP TO YOU what you do with your life when your alarm goes off. Sure.. while there might be a job and a desk and a nameplate.. it is up to you whether or not your “day job” defines you.
You now have the opportunity and the CHALLENGE to truly define who you are.. what values you hold.. and what work you want to do in the world.
So what does this mean? It means you must be an active participant in your life, in your story. You will have to make your own edits, create your own plot twists, and resolve the dramas that unfold.
There are no ANSWERS. But a few things that can help you along the way:
Stay close to the people who know and love you best (friends or family). Buy the plane ticket to see your girlfriends, write the letters and emails to let your loved ones know you’re thinking of them, stay in touch with the professors and mentors who have invested in you thus far.
Ask so many questions. No one expects you to know everything.. and the only one you hurt when you don’t ask is yourself (even at work, ask the question!).
Be open to new relationships. It can be really hard to make new friends, and it takes time and effort.. but be persistent.. it is worth it. Ask your new friend out on a second date.. it’s always better (and less awkward) on the second date. ;)
Leave if you’re not happy. Jobs, relationships, cities. Things that are worth it are generally hard work, yes. AND, if you are miserable, if you’re losing yourself, if you wake up DREADING going to work, you gotta leave. Our 20’s are the time to explore, and while I do not believe in the “perfect” job, relationship or life.. there are jobs, relationships and lives which will make us more or less happy, and you should NOT be miserable.
Forgive yourself. Again… you won’t be perfect. You’re going to mess stuff up. If you’re not messing stuff up you’re not trying hard enough. Seriously. The things that are challenging are challenging because you don’t know all the answers. And by TRYING you will learn and grow so the next time you do the thing (whether that’s excel or an intimate relationship) you will be better.
And the last point… stop comparing. You have NO IDEA what is going on in someone’s life for real. Social media is a highlight reel.. and I’ll keep saying that until it sinks in. It is not reality. Everyone’s life is the pits sometimes, and sometimes it’s the pits for a long time, and looking at someone else’s constructed, idealized version of their own lives is the worst way to try to be okay with your own “pit”.
There are a lot of other things I’d like to say to you.. but I trust you’ll learn them along the way. For now, here’s a hug, a high five, and a high-quality eye mask (you’ll be sleeping on planes for a while now..).
I’m so proud of you.
P.S. If you or someone you love are graduating.. I highly recommend looking into Rise, a membership designed for women in their 20’s. We bring experts together to create online courses for this exact life stage, as well as facilitate 1:1 mentorship and coaching relationships, as well as good-old-fashioned friendship amongst your peers. You can gift a membership to someone special in your life, or enroll yourself (your first week is free). As always, email me with questions. I love you!