Apr 29, 2019 | Alex R
Exactly one year ago today, I submitted my final portfolio for school. I chose to write on Mrs. Charlotte Schreiber, an acclaimed Canadian painter who owned a mansion and farm on the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. The university named one of the student housing buildings after her. Her home is no longer there, but her brother sold his neighbouring home to a wealthy man, who then sold it to the university. His home is known as the “Principal’s House,” a grey mansion bordering the Credit River. Charlotte’s painting remains in his home and on campus.
Charlotte is woven into Canadian history and campus life like a patch on a quilt: totally recognizable, yet subtle, and a part of a larger picture. Charlotte is like you and me.
After spending a few years on your college or university campus, you grow accustomed to the social life, studying, cafeteria, and everything in between. We become a part of this interweb of scholars, students, researchers, athletes, artists, and scientists.
So, what’s next? What follows after we say “goodbye” to our classmates and “thank you” to our professors? What happens when we remove the cap and gown and leave this interweb?
1. You keep breathing
This may not feel like a time for jokes, but hear me out. There’s an insurmountable amount of pressure riding on recent graduates: you ought to know your career, intern with that company, or land a full-time gig in a related field. Stress brews quicker than coffee. And let’s face it, we’d rather sink behind another stack of books than face reality because—gasp!—there’s no fool proof plan.
You don’t always have control. Having a contract, internship, employment offer planned, and every wrinkle pressed doesn’t mean it’s going to work out. Plans fall through, workplace needs change, and environments can mimic a Charles Dickens novel. But, you keep growing. You keep learning, and you keep breathing.
Before I graduated, I planned on going on long-term mission. I loved the country, the organization, and the ministry available ministry opportunities. I prayed, planned, and thought about being a missionary in this place for so long and even made long-term investments. Needless to say, my heart was set on going on global mission. Eager to get set and go, I connected with my pastor. Within half an hour, I knew God shut the door to long term mission overseas. I was shocked, sad, confused and dumbfounded.
While my friends went on to obtain PhDs, venture on global mission, enter medical school, or have children I went home and cried. Seriously, it was a hard time. I wondered, “Where did I go wrong?” “Am I not good enough?” “What is my purpose?” “What am I doing with my life?”
Over the next several months, I learned that begin close to God mattered more than achieving my “dreams.” It took a wise friend to show me that, my questions revealed insecurities that needed care, and that “it was okay to work in part-time positions until you gain a sharper focus on what you want to pursue. It’s okay to save and pursue another degree, or career a year or years later. And I wasn’t alone.”
I also had friends opting to intern, volunteer at their dream workplace, get counselling, join a Bible study, or a fitness class! I decided to pick up a part-time job, and focus on my relationship with God. Even though it wasn’t my dream-life, I learned how to experience joy by giving thanks- after all, I had a job!
So, it’s okay to intern for a while, or work in a completely different field to learn professional skills. It’s okay to not reach your standard, and jog a couple steps behind your friends’ or family’s. Take a deep breath, pray, and rise to the new day God gave you.
2. Your social life will undergo renovation
One thing’s for sure: we all worry about who we’ll be friends with when we enter a new life stage or environment. We want to talk to people, share laughs, and enjoy some face-to-face interaction. And like in every new stage of life, our friend groups change. That doesn’t mean we didn’t make any life-long friends (my longest friendship began in junior high) but it’s time to prepare for different faces! Graduating into a new stage of life includes a new set of faces to love!
Before I graduated, I worried about leaving my community in university. I loved my friends and did not want to let them go. God showed me that we could still visit one another, even outside of school! By setting up coffee dates, outings, group chats, and video calls we get to nourish our friendship. My campus ministry buds remain my closest friends, and now, I have a little community at church. As in any stage of life, friendships take work, and while not all of them will last, we can trust God to establish and fuel the ones we need.
3. The adventures continue
Or maybe the adventures begin! In my first year of university, my friends and I would set aside our studies for “Adventure Time” each week. We shared a class together and decided that either after or before said class, we would venture to the outdoors and discover something new. One time, we found a private trail through a forest that led to another part of town! In my second half of university, I went on mission trips with Power to Change to Copenhagen and Québec City! My teams and I had the best time sharing the gospel and learning about the spiritual diversity in different contexts and cultures.
When I graduated, I imagined a huge “STOP” sign would pop up on all the fun, but that wasn’t the case. And it’s the same for you. God continues to open doors for more adventures, and sheds lights on new possibilities!
4. It’s okay to move
My favourite professor gave the graduating class this advice, “Don’t be afraid to move, even just for one year. Go to a different city, province, or country. You’ll learn a lot and gain experience.”
If you’re like me, the idea of moving to a far off land for work seems drastic and frightening. I prefer long commutes over dropping myself into a new environment where the only person I know is me. It may sound like a recipe for disaster, but it’s actually not so bad. I’ve had friends move to different houses, cities, and countries. All of them agree that it was the best decision they made. Don’t get them wrong, moving around involves a ton of patience, organization, and relentless tasking, but at the end of it, they entered a new mini-world. When you move, you’re in a place to mature, learn how to navigate through the city, and explore. So, why not take on a new location, or city, or culture and see how things work?
5. People change
One thing that we experience in life is broken relationships. Whether it’s between you and your friends, your family members, or your co-workers, disagreements pop up and they can be hard to deal with. We often settle on the idea that what once was will always be, and it leads us down the boardwalk of negativity, bitterness, and unforgiveness. We think that a person stays the exact same way, will repeat the same actions that hurt us, and probably could care less about the way we feel. But that’s not always true.
Sometimes relationships end, and you’ll learn to love that person with distance (in praying for them), or in saying a “hello”, and offering a smile. Sometimes the relationship heals and the relationship is restored with new knowledge in which to walk. Even though the relationship may never go back to what it once was, you still have good memories to look back on and the freedom to experience joy with others. Just know that those who once hurt you can change just like you will. Maybe you feel like you need to say sorry to someone, or offer forgiveness. Make some time before you graduate to settle things, so that you can pursue closure.
Whew, that may sound scary or like a lot of work, but the peace that comes from knowing you tried your best to see things cleared up is awesome. You may still feel scared about moving, and worried that all the fun is about to end as you begin to “adult”, or you’re worried about making new friends, or secretly can’t wait for this season to be over. I understand. It’s a crazy, nerve-racking, exciting time filled with possibility, the unknown and enough memes to spend hours poring over. Whatever you do after you graduate, I hope you remember that reading this mattered because you matter.