8 Things You Need To Hear After Graduation

1. You don’t have to know right now

I’m serious! It feels like the entire world is dying to know what’s next for you! “What jobs do you have lined up?” “What grad schools did you apply to?” “What are your plans?” Ugh! It can be so nerve-racking! They want something that you can’t give them right now. I want you to know that you don’t HAVE to have all of the answers! They don’t. They may have an idea but the truth is, no one knows what God has planned. Yet we spend so much time trying to live in the future that we can’t even be proud of today. Relax! It’s okay not to know. We’re all stumbling around trying to figure it out.

2. Rejection is a redirection

So, you’ve applied for quite a few positions that you thought you really wanted? Maybe you applied to a few back ups just in case your initial plan fell through. However, it didn’t make much of a difference because they all said “No.” Ouch! You know you’re more than qualified! Maybe you were an honor student. Maybe you’ve accumulated an excessive amount of internship hours. Maybe you’ve got connections in every zip code. For God’s sake, the job posting only called for a high school diploma to begin with! So why did you receive that “Thanks for applying but we regret to inform you…” email? I’ll tell you: Yes, your degree has value. Yes, networking can be quite useful. Yes, having field experience is a plus! It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough or that you didn’t do enough. It doesn’t mean that you chose the wrong major. Here’s what I found out the hard way: Sometimes it’s not about what you know or who you know; it’s about what God has for you. The worst thing that God can do is give you what you desperately think you want. The rejections could be pouring in right now, but pick yourself up, brush yourself off and know that it’s all apart of a bigger plan. Be patient.

3. Don’t force it

Don’t try to talk yourself into something that you aren’t passionate about. I know it’s scary not knowing what’s next and I’ve heard the saying “If the door doesn’t open, it’s not your door” but you don’t have to take any and every opportunity presented to you either. Be picky with where you invest your time and energy. I know that it can be hard to stay true to yourself but don’t jump into something just to say you’re doing something. It may sound like a no brainer to start a grad program in the fall to hold off on making payments on your student loans. I mean at least you’ll be working towards something, right? But, you know what you’ll find at the end of that graduate program? The same situation that you put off. You’ll still have to face some rejection. You still have to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. You may still feel lost. I’m not trying to change your mind about furthering your education. You can never be overeducated (or overdressed.) However, I am telling you to make sure that your decision isn’t just a last resort. The same goes for jobs that will be presented to you. Every time I got rejected, I would find another position that had nothing to do with my interests or the position I had previously applied for and go through this process of trying to convince myself that this one was “the one.” I talked a little about this struggle here.  I applied to be a claims adjuster, software trainer, cellphone retail sales specialist, bank teller, management trainee… and the list goes on. What did all of these jobs have in common? Nothing. I just wanted something to show for my degree. I thought that something was better than nothing. I was absolutely, positively WRONG. If you’ve found an open door, I’m not trying to convince you to turn it down. I’m just telling you to consider what you want and what they have to offer you. Consider who you are and use Glass Door to see what others have to say about the company culture. Consider the position and whether there is room for growth. Otherwise, consider yourself a sell out because if you take just any door, the longer you stay, the harder it will be to walk through it.

4. You’re right on time

The absolute worst thing that you can do in this moment is compare yourself to others. When you hear about the luck your friends are having, the places they are moving to, and how they seem to be finding themselves, be happy for them.  Everyone is on a different schedule. It doesn’t matter if it took you 4 years or 7, if you graduated with a 2.5 or 4.0 or if you have 10 job offers or none. You’re doing just fine, kid. Just like a seed being planted, you can’t always see the progress, but the product will be beautiful. You’ll never be late to the party because you can’t rush greatness.

5. Money isn’t everything

If you have to choose between your passion and more money, please choose what you love. Your bank account can be full and your spirit be empty and it will show in the work you do. Don’t burn yourself out for a buck. Trust me, I get it! You’re a poor graduate with a stack of student loans and bills that have to get paid. But, life is also about more than just surviving. If you can’t do something that makes you happy now, just make sure you find time to do the things that make you feel alive.

6. They’re still proud of you

When you are at your lowest, remember all of those smiling faces that cheered you on as you graced the stage with your presence. They love you and want the best for you. But sometimes, you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to keep everyone else happy. They have expectations that you’re afraid you won’t be able to meet. Maybe they have expectations you have no interest in meeting at all. And if you don’t, it can feel like you’re failing them. You’re not. You’ve already committed to something huge and saw it through! It’s time to live for you. There may come a time when you realize that what they want for you isn’t what you want for yourself. In those moments, you’ll have to be your own advocate and it probably won’t be an easy thing to do! Maybe you want to be an artist but they want you to be an engineer. Maybe you want to be a social worker but they’ve always pushed for you to be a politician. Maybe you want to write…. I say do it. Don’t let other people project their lives and dreams onto you. Be brave, be bold, be honest with yourself but, above all else, be ready for the criticism and doubt that is to come because nothing you want badly will come easy. You will have to fight for those dreams. And don’t worry, even if it’s not what they want for you, they’ll continue to be proud of you (even if it’s in secret) because they’ll know, deep down, that they taught you to stand up for what you believe in. The time is now. You are responsible for the life you want. Go after it.

 7. This isn’t the end

This is where the plot gets interesting! You are standing on the edge of  adulthood and the possibilities are endless. You have the freedom to be whatever and whoever you want to be. You have the right to leap, run, walk or crawl but whatever you do… don’t stop! You’ve got work to do, a life to live and for the first time ever, you call the shots!

8. Don’t forget to breathe

You only graduate from undergrad once! This chapter came with a whirlwind of emotions. You’re in disbelief that you made it, sad about leaving your friends, excited about your next adventure, afraid of what’s to come… But just for one moment, do yourself a favor and BREATHE. Take a day off to take it all in. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” – Matthew 6:34. This moment belongs to you and only you. You earned it.

So, once you walk across that stage, know that the work has just begun and that you are walking onto a battlefield for those dreams of yours. If you put them off, they will let you. If you slow up, they will let you. If you give up, they will let you. No one is more accountable than you. You are responsible for your own happiness, your own potential, your own life. Congratulations! You deserve the world! But first, you have to believe that you can conquer it! 

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Prompted: What did you get in the most trouble for as a kid?

The purpose of “Prompted” is to provide an outlet for myself and others to reflect on past experiences, personal goals and innermost desires. It is my hope that this exercise will encourage unconventional thinking and self awareness. Each week, I will provide a new prompt and post my response on the blog. Readers can comment with their responses on this post and read what others said.

Mama always said, “Your mouth is going to get you into a lot of trouble.” and boy, was she right! Now that I’m older, I wonder if she could truly see that my tongue would be the greatest source of struggle or if it was just something that adults said to deter you from “talking back.” I wonder if she could really see the extent of its power over me or the adversity it would bring.

I was always an exceptional student, but on my report cards, next to the As and Bs, I always received the same feedback: “Does great work but talks too much.” They tried reassigning seats but that never helped. Everywhere I went, my mouth went with me and besides, the quiet kids were the best listeners. This is where it all began.

Then, I became a teenager and it stopped being about how much I said. The bigger problem was what I said. I was a force to be reckoned with. I had a mouth and the attitude to match. I was “The Great Debater.”  I had a teacher who would stop me at the door and say, “Not today, Ms. Washington.” and another who deemed me, “Ms. Sassy Pants.” I even had a teacher tell me to shut my mouth in French. “No, you ferme la bouche!” I said. The phrase “Shut Up” would probably only insult a person who talks a lot. To anyone else, it wouldn’t hold the same weight.

My mouth might not have been so bad if I was able to control my emotions. I have always been very sensitive and it was so much easier to get under my skin at this age. If something didn’t go my way, I had something to say about it and I wouldn’t just say it, I would explode! I used to wonder why I even had a cellphone. I could never keep it in my possession because I was always in trouble! It would be weeks, sometimes even months before I got it back. I would ask myself, why is my mom even paying the bill?

Now that I’m older, I see how strategic that punishment really was. Why didn’t she tell me that I couldn’t go outside or watch TV instead? Why didn’t she spank me? It’s because I liked to TALK. Maybe if I liked to go outside, she would have taken that way. Maybe if I actually watched TV, she would have suspended those privileges. But no, I spent hours at a time on the phone because I loved running my mouth.

*Side note: Remember when your minutes weren’t free until after 9 so when your mama asked if the person was with the same company, you would be like, “Hey, are you Verizon?” (KNOWING DANG WELL THEY WEREN’T!!!!), then when they said “Uh, no”, you’d tell them you’d call them back when your minutes were free. No? Just me?… Cool.

So, anyway, I think she knew that there would never be a way to control what I said. But, she could, however, control the medium. For non-communication majors, a medium is just the tool in which you communicate with; a means by which a message is transferred between the speaker and an audience. Another example of this would be the internet. They kind of went hand in hand for me. When one was taken, the other was too. I was so distraught when I couldn’t “share the love’ or update my status on Bebo! haha. Good times.

But the punishment was genius. I felt incomplete without my phone.

So far, we’ve covered teachers and parents. So what about your peers, Alexus? Did you get in any trouble with them? Yes, yes and yes! And it was always because of that darn mouth! I cannot begin to tell you how many times I had to own up to or defend something I said. I even spoke up for other people and made their enemies my own. And if I heard that something was said about me, you could bet I was going straight to the source.

You know that phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?”  Who lied? You can always tell what your enemy places value on based on what tactics they use to attack you.  My mouth was a lethal weapon. I could cut you with my words. But if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. I was a ticking time bomb and that was the only thing that could set me off.

I grew out of chasing after every rumor and learned how to mind my business if something had nothing to do with me. But then, I went to college…. and found out that my new problem was my delivery. “It ain’t always what you say. It’s how you say it, Alexus”, mama said.

I am and will probably always be a “straight to the point” kind of girl. One of my college friends said to me recently, “I can tell that you’ve always had problems with your mouth because of either what you said or how you said it. I am almost sure that most people who don’t like you, probably don’t know you at all. But you said something way too honest once and they wrote you off because of it. Either that or they didn’t understand your dark humor.”

It was like she read a book about me.

A good example of this “problem”: I recently found out that someone held a grudge for months over a joke that I don’t remember making.

Still, I believe her for two reasons: 1. It sounded like something that I would say and 2. When she repeated it, it took everything in me not to laugh out loud.. for the second time. She, however, did not crack a smile. So, yeah, I definitely said it and for the life of me, I still can’t understand why it was so bad!

I hardly ever know when I’ve struck a nerve.

But, story of my life. Did mama know that I would be this misunderstood?

So what do you do when your native language is sarcasm? If I were a style of coffee, it would be black with no sugar or cream added. Not the best taste but I bet it gets your attention!

So, I wonder… if when my mom said “Your mouth is going to get you into a lot of trouble.”, did she really know how much. I wonder if she knew that I would spend most of my childhood apologizing for what I said and the beginning of my adulthood struggling with the best way to say it.

It’s true that you catch more flies with honey but it’s also true that you die a little inside when you stop speaking up for the things that matter.

I’ve tried changing, but it never lasts.

For a while, it really bothered me to be this way.  I used to wish I was quieter. I thought that people would like me more if I said less. It’s not fun trying to shrink yourself to be accepted though. They say, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” Well, I keep trying on this stupid shoe and each time I find out that it’s not my size, it makes me feel smaller.

I found out that these troublesome words just wont fit into a neat little box. They don’t come wrapped with a pretty bow.

I decided that I would rather be ostracized than censored.

And, let me tell you something (and if you’ve gotten this far, you know I’m not asking for your permission): I recently heard a sermon about potential and purpose. The pastor said that your greatest struggle is probably central to your purpose and I believe it because you wouldn’t even be reading this if it wasn’t for my “struggle”.

It also happens to be my strength.

Mama said that my mouth would get me into trouble and she was right! But, I also think she knew that it would still take me far.

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Apply it! What were you constantly in trouble for? Did you grow out of it? Take a moment to reflect and leave a comment!