It’s that time of the year again and I wish I could physically be present to celebrate with and support my dear friends who are graduating. But, I can’t because I am sharing a California King-sized bed with my mom, dad, and brother in the middle of Nowheresville (just kidding, I’m in Tiburon and it’s actually quite nice). At least we all have our own pillow.
Since I can’t be yelling embarrassing things at my friends while they walk across that stage to get a very expensive piece of paper and shake the hands of people they probably don’t actually know, in plain ol’ Christina fashion, writing is the next best thing I can think of to express the multitude of thoughts I’m having for my friends who are about to embark on the next part of their journey.
I’ve written before on how graduating can leave you confused and disillusioned. And while I still believe that to be true, this is a more positive post, one that’s hopefully less foreboding than what you’re used to getting from me.
You have accomplished quite a feat. Behind this 15-letter word of “congratulations” are your years of hard work, sacrifice, moments of great exasperation and defiance. While we may not always acknowledge it, I know this to be true. This is your moment. Take it in and appreciate everything you have done to get you here.
Whether you are a First Generation student, carrying the faith of your family on your back alongside the textbooks you’ve shoved in your bookbag, or a student who never had to question if a university education could be your reality, you have gone through so much. This day is about recognizing your frustrations and barriers, just as much as it’s about your triumphs.
After graduating, it took me the better part of a year to finally figure out how to keep challenging myself and learning after leaving student life. It is so easy for us to fall in line, to get a job and live our lives, relegating education to something of our past. And to keep learning, keep questioning and engaging with things critically…it is not something done by most. But friends, I encourage you to try. I’ve been privileged enough to have free time to spend chatting with friends about social issues, sitting in on university classes even though I’m not a student. It’s helped me a lot in easing my way out and simultaneously, back in, to the university. But for those of you who don’t have that option, it’s going to be hard. But, you got through so many hard things as a student, and I am confident in your ability to get through this too. And if you can’t quite get through it alone, I have a very empty living room and three air mattresses.
I know that people think our generation of millenials are spoiled, misdirected, and/or take things for granted. Maybe that is true for some. But your graduation and the impending fears you already have or will have should not be dismissed just because you fall into the millennial time frame. Your worries about the future are valid and legitimate. After all, you have spent the better part of your life listening to others telling you how to survive a system that was not created for you to think for yourself. And now, you’re off, and you’re told to think for yourself and accomplish great things. How vague. What kind of “great things” can you accomplish if you’re not yet ready to be thrust into the world?
These are all questions we have when we graduate, we just try to hide them. But I’m here to say, do not hide them and do not be ashamed if you don’t have things figured out, even a little bit. Be open and honest with your fears, because we all have them. Don’t let anyone say you are not allowed to be fearful or challenge yourself just because you’re young. Having fears of the future and also being happy about your accomplishments as a college graduate do not have to be exclusive things. You’re allowed to question your worth some days, and be super proud of your accomplishments on others. I didn’t learn this immediately, and still have to remind myself on occasion.
But, most of all, aside from “congratulations”, I am here to say that I am so proud.
I am proud to know you and to call you my friend. And I am so grateful that through every option the universe has had for you and for me, we were able to come together in some way and learn from each other. I am proud that you persevered and did what you needed to so that you could walk across that stage, be cheered on by family, and smile for awkward photographs. And I am proud to know that you will do great things. Vague as it is, I am so sure of it. You have already done great things by just being who you are and being a friend to me. And though it doesn’t pay the bills, I hope that my pride in you will motivate you to be proud and confident in yourself too. So, throw up that cardboard hat that literally has no other use than to be a very poorly constructed Frisbee, and celebrate all that you are and all that you will be.
With love, gratitude, and ZOTS (for you other Anteaters out there),