Dear sister (and all 2014 graduates, and my fellow 20-somethings, and my 21-year-old self),
Sometimes I look back and truly miss college–the days when my best friends lived across the hall and the hardest part of a Friday was deciding what to wear out. Sometimes. I want you to know that as much as it is difficult, this post-college life is also full of freedom–something more rewarding that you can imagine right now. There is fear and beauty in the fact that no one is telling you what to do. And it is in that omnipresent swirl of lostness that you will discover a few things here and there. Here are a few things I’ve learned since then . . .
Good company is most important. It might not be the same big, familiar group of friends you had in college. In fact, it definitely won’t be. Best friends move away and grow apart. I believe that people are meant to be together to teach each other, to reveal and enhance different parts of life they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. But often it is only for a certain period of time. Be grateful for these friendships and all that they have taught you, and remember them always. But don’t get hung up on holding on to them. Look for people around you in the present. Find someone you can trust, who makes you laugh, who brings out the positive in you. Maybe she won’t be your future bridesmaid or your new best friend or maybe she will. But she will be the person there at the end of the day to listen to you and to experience this stage of your life with you. Make new memories.
At the same time, learn to find a home within yourself. There is so much change in the years after college that it is hard not to be wistful for the past all the time. You will think, it was so much easier back when… Allow yourself a moment of nostalgic reminiscence and then gracefully return to the present. When everything around you is shifting, look inward and focus on what you are feeling, thinking, dreaming. Spend time alone. Learn to trust your instincts and practice making decisions based on your heart and your head (but mostly your heart). You will ask for advice from everyone, and that’s okay. But in the end, know that the decision is yours and let that knowledge guide you wherever you please.
Have a general direction, but don’t follow a map. Something you will realize more and more as you venture into the real world is that so many people–not just you–don’t know what they want to do. The ones who do know are the lucky ones. Sometimes it takes decades to find it, while some never find it at all. This will stress you out. Let it. The stress will motivate you, but it will also allow you to discover that it’s the tiniest things in life that will put your mind at ease. Maintaining this balance will be a daily practice about which you will consciously and constantly have to remind yourself. Always circle back to the fact that your life is happening right now. Do you what you want–not in a YOLO way, but because the whisper in your soul is telling you to.
I am so excited about your possibility. Don’t be daunted by its vastness, and do not think of all that you haven’t done yet. Be patient. The journey is not easy, but it is just the beginning.