You’ve got this.
I would like to use my final column to speak directly to Trinity’s graduating seniors.
It makes sense that many of you are feeling a bit anxious.
For the past four years, you have traveled a pathway marked by clear signposts and deadlines. Professors, coaches, work-study supervisors, bosses and parents have told you where to be, what to do and when to do it. Attend class. Study for the test. Collect the data. Present your findings. Pitch the business. Debug the app. Practice for the game. Prep for the debate tournament. Rehearse for the big show. Read. Write. Revise. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Deadlines and grades are stressful, but the prospect of these signposts disappearing is terrifying in its own way. You don’t know exactly how your life will change. All you know for sure is that things will be much different.
This fear of the unknown is compounded by a panicked script which goes something like this:
“What if I don’t get a job right away? What if I don’t get accepted to graduate school? What if the economy tanks again? Where will I live? Will I be on the street? How does this adulting thing work? Am I really supposed to pay first month’s rent and last month’s rent? Do I need health insurance? Do I get some sort of coverage from my parents’ plan through Obamacare “” Um, is that still a thing? Aaaaaaaaagh.”
Take a deep breath. Relax. You are going to be OK.
You don’t need to take my word for it. Through the magic of Facebook (a.k.a. “social media for the olds”), I asked Trinity alumni to share their advice for young people on the brink of graduation. This is what they told me.
1. Give yourself a break.
“Try not to get too hung up on the opportunities that other people are getting,” said Lyndsey Aguilar, class of 2012. “You may not have a job or school program lined up, and others might. You may feel antsy, inferior or discouraged, but you are YOU and that’s OK. There is not one cookie-cutter path for everyone to take.”
Carlos Anchondo from the class of 2014 echoes this sentiment. “Try not to measure yourself against your fellow Trinity graduates,” he advised. “Be happy for their successes and confident in the degree that you’ve earned.”
“Take it easy on yourself,” said Lauren Madrid, class of 2005. “Remember that no one thing defines you “” not your job, degree, hobbies, where you live…. None of these things defines who you are.”
Elizabeth Story, class of 2004, reminded you to catch your breath. “I always think back to that time between graduation and my first job wishing I had a longer break,” she wrote. “I’ve been working ever since. Gross. That would have been a great time to pause, reflect and get ready for the transition.”
2. Open yourself up to an unpredictable future, even if you make mistakes along the way.
Even if the future is scary, keep an open mind. “Be open to opportunities and don’t be so restrictive in your job search,” said Cameron Meyer, class of 2009. “Go out and see the world,” said Kellie Benn, class of 2012. “Don’t get stuck in one corner of it. There’s so much out there if you just open yourself up to the possibilities. … Things have a way of working out.”
Wendy Rigby, class of 1983, a bioscience and medicine reporter for Texas Public Radio, noted that “Jobs you never dream of will open opportunities you never imagined.” This is a good thing, because “… each experience weaves together into a tapestry of knowledge that will serve you for the rest of your life.”
“Don’t worry about making mistakes,” said Amy McGee, class of 1992. “If you don’t make mistakes, you are playing life too safely.”
3. You are ready to do this.
Elizabeth Story, class of 2004, reminded you that Trinity sets you up for success. “You’ve got the theory and the technical practice in your arsenal. You have peers, faculty and alumni to lean on for support and networking. You’re young and you’re hungry, and that counts. The world is your oyster. Go for it.”
Believe in yourself and recognize your talents, but don’t get a swelled head. Be humble. As McGee pointed out, “You’ve been told up until now how special you are,” but, “the people in the workforce will not treat you differently than anyone else and it’s a bit of a shock.””
“You’ve learned a lot at Trinity that your peers who went elsewhere (and will compete against you for jobs and promotions) did not have the opportunity to learn. … Trinity gave you superpowers of which you are not yet aware. But they will come through soon enough and you will be rewarded,” said Daren Brabham, class of 2004.
So, when you walk across the stage in Laurie Auditorium in two weeks, remember that you are not the first “” and certainly not the last “” Trinity graduate terrified of what lies ahead. You will, though, have an army of maroon-clad supporters cheering you on and picking you up. You can do this.
Aaron Delwiche is a professor of communication.