A few weeks ago, I watched my son receive his college degree from the same university that I graduated from a few decades earlier.
It was a great day for him and all of the graduates, and it was fun to see so many students receive their diplomas and begin to move into the next phases of their lives.
The time at commencement made me recall how when I received my college degree in 1992, I was on top of the world but scared of it, too.
I was proud to have finished school, but I also had no idea what would be next for me. Several of my friends already had jobs, but all I had lined up was my old part-time post at a grocery store. I was thankful to have that job while I continued to look for a position in my field, but it was a little frustrating.
People would often congratulate me for earning my degree and doing (relatively) well at college, and it felt good to hear that. I really did work a lot in my classes, jobs and internship (at The Farmland News!), and I felt like I had made it through a lot.
The problem usually arose with the next natural question in the conversation.
“So what are you doing next?”
It was awkward to not have an answer, other than just saying that I was looking for a job or to ask them if they would like paper or plastic bags for their groceries.
I had succeeded by graduating, but felt a little like I had failed because I didn’t have a job yet.
After a few weeks, I landed an interview for a job that sounded great, and as luck would have it, I didn’t get the job. That didn’t help my confidence much, but after a few more weeks I picked up an interview for another career opportunity and thankfully got the position.
It was exactly the type of work I wanted to do, with the only problem being that it paid next to nothing because it was at a super small newspaper.
I gratefully took the position, which I enjoyed and learned a great deal from. That job somehow led into another and then another and so on, and now I am about to start the next step in my career.
As I watched my son and the thousand of other students walk across the same stage that I walked across in 1992, I eventually stopped thinking about myself long enough to consider how nervous many of them likely are about their futures.
No doubt they are excited to be finished with school, but it’s always awkward to end one phase of your life and to move onto the next. And when you don’t know what the next phase is yet, or even where you will be living in that next phase, it can be rather daunting.
The thing to remember, though, is that everyone has their own path and it rarely goes where you think that it will. I had no idea where life would take me, but somehow I have made it to this point in life.
Frankly, I’m not exactly sure how I got this far, and now I am nervous now about the new job I’m about to start. Will the people there like me? How long will it take to feel comfortable with all of the work? Where will I eat my lunch?
So for all of the college and high school graduates who are not sure where life is going yet, and for anyone else who is also unsure about what step to take next in life, you need to remember that you’ve already come very far.
I couldn’t be prouder of my son, and I’m not worried about what comes next for him because I am already pleased with where he is and who he is right now.
And wherever you are in life, I hope that you don’t let uncertainty or doubt keep you from celebrating the steps you have already taken. I also hope that you don’t worry too much if you don’t know which way to go next.
Everyone has his or her own path, and every path is different. The thing to remember is that you are already moving forward, even if you are not going in the direction that you originally planned.
It seems like just yesterday that I graduated, and looking back on it now, I’m glad that it worked out that I didn’t have a job and didn’t know what I was going to do right after I graduated. I was able to spend some time at home, and then that time led me a job that I liked and to a life that I love.
No one is sure about what the future holds, and no one has everything figured out (no matter what they tell you). The best thing you can do is to try to move forward while you enjoy where you are today.
Today is pretty amazing and before you know it, you’ll be sitting in some bleachers somewhere thinking about how nice today was and how grateful you are that it was part of your path.