So You Just Graduated
The next steps, and why they aren't scary.
So you just graduated. You just listened to lengthy speeches about how many amazing things you are going to accomplish and how wonderful life has been so far. Your face hurts from smiling for so many pictures. You are surrounded by your best friends and all of the people that have supported you through high school in the most glamorous of clothing- all of it is like consolidation for that impending fear of graduation, that you’ll screw it all up after this day.
When I chose my courses in high school, I didn’t get the courses I wanted. I was called into the student services office, like many other students, and asked to choose between one of about five courses offerings that were taking place during the time where I had a blank space in my schedule. For that block of time, that one hour, I could choose between 5 things.
Fast forward to a few months later and I’m applying for university, choosing what I want to study for the block that is the next four years of my life, and choosing between what felt like an infinite number of degree options, and choosing where I wanted to be for this block.
This can be really freakin' scary. Here’s why it’s not.
When I was shown that piece of paper with 5 options, I was told to pick 1 out of 5 to fill that block. Remember those blocks every kid had with letters and numbers on them? You can pair them together, stack them up, throw them, but at the end of the day, that block only has 4 sides. That’s the difference between high school and University. You go from playing with blocks to having all the toys in the world at your disposable. Now, that’s freaking fun.
Actual life, life out of high school, doesn’t work in blocks. High school is not the world and there is so much more out there, I have no doubt that you will find your space or niche or people. Even though I’d say I found the degree that works for me, I never ever settle or stop looking for opportunities that better align with what I want to do and what I want to be.
In Grade 12, I was convinced I would live at home in the suburban town I grew up in, get a degree in Psychology from the nearest University, with the hope of becoming a research psychologist or a counsellor. I took a Political Science course because my dad said it would be interesting and I needed to fill a block in my time table. Now, I’m majoring in it. I graduated high school in 2015, but I also changed universities and majors. You don't have to have it all figured out and you'll end up where you need to be. Regardless, people will expect you to have it all figured out. The question will come over and over again- “so, what are you doing next year?”.
I worried about what to choose but I knew I had to go with something and run with it. Although we can sit here for days on end and hypothesise what would happen if we went another direction, you’ll never know. Pick something and run and if you don’t like it, change it. This is the most untraditional and worst advice for anyone who seeks a linear path but I’m not a career counsellor, that’s just worked so far for me.
The best way I quieted all those worries about making the right choice was knowing, in me, that I had the resilience to start over and that I knew I would never be happy settling for something that I didn’t like.
So I didn’t take a gap year (or 5) to figure out what I wanted to do. I constantly figure it out, every day and I constantly change my mind. That four-year post-high school plan? Throw it up with that grad cap, honey, and let that go. Keep it in mind, but don’t let it stop you from constantly looking for ways to get more of what you want.
Also, I remember looking around at grad and seeing all my family and friends. In that moment, I felt so incredibly supported and loved. Although some of those friendships will leave, those people still are crucial to my life. Whoever that is for you, tell them you love them lots.
Every person at graduation will walk across the stage and get the same piece of paper with a different name. But after this, every kid will go on and do something different, not just career wise but life wise. Yes, you probably have more than one friend going into business. But even if those people all take the same classes and all have the same professors, their lives in four years will inevitably look different from one another.
The very best thing about being out of high school is watching this happen. Watching the people you spent every day with go through life and find their niche. Graduating is not the starting line of a race to see who can get through University fastest or go to the most prestigious college. Maybe they graduate from a graphic design program, maybe they are having a kid, and maybe they are travelling the world- but odds are that from here on out you guys will never be the same as you are right now. You get the privilege of looking at your news feed and finding out that someone got a promotion and another person got a degree. You get the privilege of cheering on those people (if we graduated together and are Facebook friends but haven’t actually talked in two years- I’m rooting for you hard). The grad speeches you’ll listen to for hours are right, it’s the end and the beginning of some pretty amazing things. Oh, the places you’ll go.