An Obligatory ConGRADulations – A Semi-Open Letter to my Pals Graduating from University

An Obligatory ConGRADulations – A Semi-Open Letter to my Pals Graduating from University

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.

So, congratulations!!11!!!!!1!1!!!!!

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),


The Sad Thing No One Tells You After You Stop Being Student

The Sad Thing No One Tells You After You Stop Being Student

When you graduate college, after the “congratulations!” Facebook posts stop rolling in, after your relatives stop patting you on the back and stop asking what your future plans are, after all of the hip-hip-hoorays are done, there is a daunting stillness in your life that no one really tells you about.

It doesn’t matter if you’re coming out of college with a full-time job lined up or if you’re still in limbo, wandering from part-time job to part-time job.

I mean, people do talk about it being kind of strange not waking up for class or having to study for exams.  And people talk about how stressful it is to be in the workplace, dealing with taxes, having adult problems.

But those are all strangely little things compared to the big thing that no one talks about.

No one talks about how utterly lost you can feel after you leave school.

And no one says that it’s okay to feel like you don’t have a place anymore because for pretty much your entire life, you have classified yourself as a student, first and foremost.

It has been about four months since I had to stop calling myself a student.  I proudly graduated from an accredited research university amongst many wonderful friends.  I was hopeful, bright-eyed, and sure that things would be great.  But still, I am at a loss.

I don’t know if it is the romanticized notion of the adult world that so many young adults have or if maybe I just clung too tightly to the university. But, regardless of what it is, I feel unsatisfied, like when you are forced to close up a book you just started getting into. People say that chapters of your life have to end so you can start a new one, but what happens when you aren’t ready to start a new chapter?  What happens when you feel like all the characters are having a wonderful storyline except you? What happens when you feel lost?

I’ve always been one to want things to happen organically, but leaving the university felt so forced for me.  It wasn’t natural or normal or some organic progression that made sense.  I just wasn’t ready, or maybe I refused to be ready.

A college education is supposed to unlock so many wonderful doors.  It is supposed to be the track that leads you to some amazing destination.  But it feels like everyone is arriving to their destination a lot quicker than I am.

No one tells you that you might feel that way.  No one tells you that along with adult problems, like paying bills and working long hours, you sometimes feel desperately lonely.

I have a good number of friends that graduated at the same time I did.  I see a good handful of them on a regular basis.  That eases the loneliness.  But, I have a good number of friends still in college.  And though I know we all have our separate responsibilities and roles to take care of, it is hard to not be in the same place, physically or emotionally, as them.

It is difficult knowing that friends are too busy with school to talk to you or spend time with you.  It is difficult knowing that you are no longer an important part of their life because you are not a student like them.  It is difficult knowing that the foundation of many relationships in college is the simple fact that you were in college at the same time as they were.  And now that you are graduated and formally finished with school, that relationship no longer is as important as you may have perceived.

No one tells you that.

Graduating college, I have recently been joking about how old I am.

At twenty-one, I know that numerically, I am far from being what society classifies as “old”.  But, I think what I mean is that I feel “old”.  I feel cast aside by some of my peers, many of whom I considered friends.  I feel unenergized and unwilling to venture out of my comfort zone.  I feel like I don’t know how to move past this strange lull in my post-graduate life.  I feel like I am desperately clinging to the relationships I have because I am so scared of being unable to make new ones.

As a typically extroverted and charismatic person, I feel terrible being so afraid and uncertain of how life continues on when I am so unready and unwilling to move along with it.  I think when you stop being something you identify with for so long, like being a student, that tends to happen.

No one tells you that.

I don’t know if I’ll slowly overcome my obscure sense of abandonment or if I’ll just learn to tune it out.  I don’t know if I’ll get used to seeing only three or four people on a regular basis compared to my multitude of friendship circles I had whilst in college.  I don’t know if these feelings are normal or not.  I honestly don’t know anything.  College taught me a lot, but it didn’t teach me how to deal with not being in college anymore.

I hate to be melodramatic, but no one told me how to healthily grieve the loss of something so abstract as your own identity. Not being a student anymore has been an incredibly debilitating experience for me.  No one told me that could happen.  And even though I’m not technically a student, I’m still constantly learning.

And I guess, that’s going to have to be enough for me.