Optimism is key in surviving graduation

NATAHNA BARGEN

Anxiety

For those of us in our final year of our undergraduate degrees, we have passed the halfway point of the last semester and graduation seems to be rushing towards us.

This is not a message for those of us who are graduating and have their whole life mapped out before them from the second they triumphantly whisk off their graduation robes  — you know who you are.

This is a message for the rest of us who are beginning to realize that graduation is a cliff that we are about to jump off of and we were too optimistic, distracted, confident, lost or involved to figure out how we were going to make it to the bottom without splattering into a thousand pieces.

To add insult to impending injury, everyone seems to care so much about how we plan to be a successful human being after graduation. They want to know how we plan to survive this colossal free fall jump.

For four or more years people have been asking us the same question: “What are you going to do?” They always say it with a sweet, interested smile spread across their face, but in the glint of their eye we can see a reflection of our flailing, falling body and it convinces us that behind our back these overly involved persons are slowly drumming their fingers together waiting for our inevitable failure.

The problem with this age old question of “What are you going to do?” asked by mainly well-intentioned people is that it tries to apply a formula to life. It makes the assumption that you know what will be happening in your life three months, a year or five years from now.

While there are a select few people who this formula works for, you are probably not one of them. So, what is to be done about you?

First of all, it may be healthy to adopt the attitude of “[expletive] everyone” for awhile. As you fall from that graduation cliff, you are going to have people trying to catch and contain you with their advice and opinions.

Listen to your own intuition. Do not panic and latch on to your first safety net. Learn to not care too deeply what other people think of you. Ultimately you are the only person responsible for the outcome of your life. Know what you love and chase that — no matter what you believe people are saying about you in whispers.

Do you know what you love? Maybe you know your dream already or maybe you are learning what your dream is. Whichever the case, in the words of the Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, “Your dreams are valid.”

These are hard words to remember if you are dealing with a recent graduate school or dream job rejection. They are hard words to remember if you have no sense of what direction to go in the pursuit of your dream.

However, your dreams are valid, and they are worth fighting for. They are worth going off the beaten path for. Your self-worth is not the sum of your successes and failures. It is how you react to and move forward from these events in your life that prove your character.

This kind of relentless pressing on requires you to be a bit of an optimist. It requires you to crawl out of the safe womb of self-pity and allow yourself to be hopeful, confident and eager for all the opportunities and possibilities before you.

Perhaps there are those who graduate with you that seem to be living your dream more effectively than you are. While life is not a formula, it is also not a competition. Find your own niche, make your own goals and do not allow the apparent success of others to cripple your own ambitions.

Your dreams continue to be valid even when they are not being fully realized. Your dreams continue to be valid even when someone else seems to have your same dream. Your life will likely not be a straight path.

You will have obstacles, detours and doors closed in your face. To return to the falling metaphor, keep building your makeshift wings or your patched together parachute. Pity the smug so-and-so’s whose lives will not be as interesting as yours.

When your Plan A falls through, make a Plan B — and probably a Plan C and D. Try to give yourself a sense of direction, but do not smash to pieces when that direction inevitably changes.

Allow yourself to be an optimist. Believe in your intrinsic self-worth and acquired skills. Let life surprise you. Your life is not a formula and there are plenty of clever, intriguing ways to make it out of this cliff jump alive.


Graphic: Mike Tremblay