This past Friday I returned to my alma mater for a student/alumni networking social. This was the third or fourth time I’ve participated in the event, which is designed to give current students a chance to ask alumni questions about their career path and how it is (or isn’t) related to what they studied in college. As a student who wandered through a number of majors and graduated with no particular plans, I feel like I’m a walking testament to the fact that you really will be alright, whether you have it all figured out or not, it’s okay – just enjoy the journey.
If I could tell the students only one other thing, it would be to try to hold on to that fearless sense of new-ness and adventure that you feel leading up to and just after graduation. Each time I return to the little college town I called home for four years, I am struck by the memory of driving out of it the day of graduation. Green Day’s Time of Your Life was on the radio, followed by Tom Petty’s Free Falling. This juxtaposition of songs was the perfect soundtrack to how it felt to round that corner out of campus knowing that I had just finished something big, something that would shape the direction of my life and yet feeling some indescribable mix of excitement and anxiety and thrill about what was yet to come.
I spent the summer after graduation working in California. When I returned, I moved to the suburbs of Washington DC with a friend. No job. Not even the slightest offer for one. Just hope and a resume. About three years later I moved to Richmond. No job. Not even the slightest offer for one. Just hope, a (better) resume, and love. I didn’t have it all figured out. I was alright.
Reflecting on this as a thirtysomething, I realize that I put a lot of stock in my ability to leap and land on my feet. I also realize that I have lost some of that youthful fearlessness and faith and I am not particularly happy about that. So when that next great opportunity peeks around the corner at me, I want to remember my 21-year-old self, conjure up her courage, stop over-thinking and simply leap.
I encourage all of you (students or not) to do the same.