“So, how does it feel to be a college graduate?” This was the first question I was asked by my mom as I walked out of the Benson Auditorium on Dec. 16, 2016, and I’ll never forget it. The honor of being the first in my family to gain that title was weighty, but I was proud of my accomplishment. Still, the only answer I could offer her was, “I don’t really know.”
I’ve always thought it was a fitting response. That day was exciting, but it also came with a great deal of anxiety. I didn’t know what was to come in the so-called “real world.” I didn’t have any plans, and the future felt like an empty void. Then, with the blink of an eye, I found myself in a new city, trying to get on my feet with a new job and a new graduate school program. Things seemed to have settled down for me.
Fourteen months, five jobs, four moves and one school transfer later, I’ve landed in a completely different city as a youth minister and a grad student at Lipscomb. It’s been a blur. I feel like I’ve just found land after a year at sea, and I never want to see another body of water. And yet, this period of transition has been a remarkable time of learning, growth and blessing.
Post-grad life is tumultuous. The transition, financial stress and career search can be overwhelming. However, there’s something about this phase of life that can provide you with profound joy if you allow it. So, here are a few things I would go back and tell myself if I could:
First, don’t compare yourself with other graduates. It may seem like all your peers have landed remarkable jobs and started families, but don’t fall into the trap of jealousy. It’s crucial to remember your occupation and relationship status do not define you. You are already enough. You are already loved by a God who cares deeply for you. And while these facts might not pay the bills, they’ll help you fight through dull days at an awful job or lonely nights in a new place.
Second, go outside! Do something! Force yourself to meet other people, especially those with different perspectives. New friendships can be awkward, but they will help you see and understand the world in an entirely new way. Welcome these opportunities, because they can better your life immeasurably. It can be incredibly easy to lay on your couch in a dark room and never get up. Don’t let yourself. Explore your town, socialize and enjoy your new life!
Third, the shape of your faith will change. God uses times of transition to reveal Godself in tremendous ways. Try to be open to new ideas and spiritual experiences, even if it’s uncomfortable. God is not stagnant and neither is faith. Accept the change that comes with growth.
In the end, post-grad life is what you allow it to be. You can hold on tight and just try to survive, or you can face uncertainty head-on. Look your existential dread straight in the eye and embrace it. Find a path that works for you. Fight for your faith, whatever shape it takes. And above all, never forget that while your profession can give your life meaning, the simple things matter more. Good coffee, good food and good people can be the heart of a remarkably fulfilling life.
Written by Casey Stringer