Graduation still feels surreal. This post and my life right now are a little all over the place. I am finding myself in this world along with other recent graduates. I wanted to share a little about me and some advice for those who are on the same journey. I am finding a home in a new place because being a student has been a large part of my identity for almost my whole life.
On Friday, May 5th, 2017, I woke up with a sense of relief after having turned in my last final that Tuesday. I got up and ran a couple of errands with my friend and sister, and counted down the hours until my convocation ceremony. The ceremony was horrendously long, if I were to redo it, I would bring snacks because I got really hungry! Yet, I tried to soak in the words that were said by the speakers and waited for my name to be called.
They said it wrong.
Yet, to be honest, it didn’t bug me as much as I thought it would. As soon as they called my name I was met by the embrace of my thesis mentor and professor.
I almost cried at the sight of her because she gave me strength and the courage to keep moving forward this year. Something that no one knows is that I almost didn’t write my thesis. I almost gave up, but her words of encouragement helped me see past all the anxiety and obstacles around me.
It has been 15 days since I graduated and every day, I still ask myself if I really did it. Do I really have a bachelor’s degree? Did four years really go by? And the answer is yes. I did. I have spent a lifetime working towards this part of my goals and now I plan to pursue my other goals of writing and becoming a civil rights lawyer.
This last year I learned so much about myself and I realize now more than ever the importance of mental health, of making it a priority and necessity in my life. It has taken me a long time to realize that my needs matter and that I cannot sacrifice my own well-being for everyone else. This life long process has pushed me to continue advocating for issues that aren’t always the focus. Issues like anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses need to have light brought to them and de-stigmatized.
I have also learned to take steps back and remember my own worth. This has been one of the hardest and most rewarding things I could do. I am no expert at life or anything else for that matter but I can at this point in my life feel proud of the person I am becoming. To all my recent graduates, I think you should too.
You have now become a professional with a degree that is often unobtainable to a large portion of our population. My first-generation college students, students of color, and any student part of a marginalized community — YOU DID IT. You have overcome the obstacles and barriers around you to pursue a degree in (hopefully) something you are passionate about. You have overcome so much to receive a degree in a society that has degraded your existence. That all HAS to count for something.
Maybe like me, it all seems a bit blurry and uncertain but what is life without that? What is life if every move is planned out and all your dreams are cookie cutter dreams. What is the point of it all if the only thing you seek is the known?
Am I scared? Most certainly. I have learned though, that in the moments of fear and uncertainty has brought some of my greatest pursuits to follow what I am good at — even if it meant taking risks. It has meant me saying “I am taking a year off of school to figure out things for myself” being met with backlash, eye rolls, and “what can you even do with your degree?” It has been met with “how are you going to pay your bills?” “so you don’t have a plan at all?” which are all valid concerns but at the same time, these words are so degrading and condescending.
So maybe I don’t know what I am doing exactly but I do know three things.
- I am happy. I am in a place in my life where I can feel the freedom to breathe and relax and think.
- I am learning to organize my thoughts, schedule, activism, and life into a more balanced way not to become overwhelmed the way I had before.
- I know my end goals, who I want to be, and the type of work I want to do for my community.
So maybe I don’t know it all, maybe my life is a bit hectic and uncertain right now, and maybe these past two weeks have just felt so validating that I want to say to all recent graduates.
You are okay, mess and all. Even though it feels like you have to be running, it’s okay to walk or jog or even take a break but just don’t stop. Don’t let the dreams or fears of the people around you change the way you feel towards the decisions you made of your life. They’ll project a lot of their feelings, decipher your thoughts and feelings out and remember that you have time to figure things out. You are allowed mistakes.
And in the words of one of my favorite humans,
You won’t make a choice that is wrong. There’s no such thing. Remember these choices are only temporary. You have a lifetime ahead of you.