Monday, May 18, 2015

Lessons from Life Post-Grad, Year One

The floods of pictures of caps and gowns, proud smiles and celebratory cheer have me feeling more nostalgic than ever this week. I cannot believe that one year ago today, it was me - the "not college material" gal who was walking across that stage, graduating in the top 4% of my class from St. Mary's College of Maryland. 

It is incredible how life changes. You meet people who can completely obliterate your entire thought process over a cup of coffee, you have experiences that widen your naive eyes, you open you heart to things that make it feel deeply and sincerely, you begin to loosen your white-knuckled grip on "your" ideas of right and wrong, you second-guess yourself, you speak with a sometimes shaky insecurity, you shed countless tears over (in retrospect) pointless assignments, you learn to connect with people who are so radically different than what you know in both wonderful and terrible ways but most importantly, you try incredibly hard to find yourself. 

I don't think I found myself on my path to college graduation but I do think that my time spent in college gifted me with the ability to reflect and grow in ways I never anticipated it would. I think of my degree as a toolbox. Bits and pieces of things that will help me shape my life, build my career and subsequently, create myself. For my time spent exploring myself and my ideas in the wonderfully liberal place I was educated has taught me that we don't just "find" ourselves - nothing comes that easily. We create. 

Countless lessons have been experienced by yours truly since last year but there is one that shines brighter than most this year. 

Advocate for yourself. We've all heard it - "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Everything I look to as an accomplishment in the past year is firmed rooted in advocating for myself. Own your talents, know your weaknesses and have the courage to step outside your own comfort zone. My biggest lessons and blessins' this year have stemmed from taking chances on myself. Even on days when I know I am my own worst enemy, I do my best to think back and reflect on how I got from being the condescending "not college material" county gal to the Summa Cum Laude graduate with two great jobs and an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. I put myself out there. I wrote what I felt and I shared it. I took risks by giving my opinion, I embraced differences and used them to reflect and create opinions rather than just riding the bandwagon like so many of us do in our adolescence. Being an advocate for yourself isn't selfish, its responsible. If you want something, ask for it. That includes those times where you are so incredibly overwhelmed that you are too afraid to ask for help. In my darkest times over the past year, asking for help and advocating for myself brought me the solidarity that I craved. Advocating for myself both personally and professionally is paving the way to the creation of a wonderful life. It isn't always easy but it challenges the creator to... well, be creative. 

While I'm only in year of life post-grad, I can only imagine the things I will be able to do with these tools. The things I will grow, the things I will continue to create, the things I will fail miserably at and thus - shatter, the things I will build with meticulous detail, the things that will just fall together. The creation of my life is forever changed by the opportunity that I have had to experience higher education. 

"The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you."--B. B. King