Just as quickly as it began, it all came to an end. I moved into my freshman dorm at UNC-Chapel Hill on a hot, humid day four years ago. There was no air conditioning in my particular room. Four years later, and I walked down the stadium steps to graduate on a sweltering hot day that left my skin marked with a lovely red sunburn. There was no air conditioning this time either.
The actual ceremony was a tad bit boring and parents were walking in and out trying to avoid heat exhaustion. I took my robe off about 10 minutes in, because despite having paid close to $100 for a piece of fabric I was to wear once, I couldn’t use that $100 to justify keeping it on with the sun beating down on us. And that’s when I realized… it’s not the ceremonies that matter. It’s not the professional senior portraits posed in front of the Old Well. It’s not about where you ate for your graduation dinner. It’s about the past four years. Graduation day will shortly become just a blip of a memory and then will eventually fade. But the memories and the lessons you learn throughout college are worth all the money and riches in the world.
Five lessons I’ve learned… & their caveats (because life is not black and white. It’s the gray that makes it all the more interesting.)
Stop hanging around people who do not lift you up.
This is different from “hang out with people who support you.” Of course you want to surround yourself with people who motivate and encourage you, but this lesson requires you to not only put these kind of people in your life, but also remove the people who do not actively move you forward. This requires you to surround yourself with people who continuously make you a better person.
Don’t accept anything but perfection from your work.
But not at the expense of the relationships with those around you. Hold yourself to the highest standard imaginable and work to obtain this perfection. You won’t reach it, but you won’t let yourself down. Do just about anything to get what you want (you are your biggest advocate) but do not hurt others, lie or cheat in the process. As soon as you find yourself compromising your human relationships, it’s time to put on the breaks. Your success will mean nothing if you do not have people to share it with.
Things will always get better.
No matter the situation, you will not remain sad, hurt or angry forever. Even though at the time it might feel like you will never get out of your despair, just trust that with time things will change. But usually not on their own. You will have to make tough decisions. You will have to cut some people off, and make efforts to take in other things that are new. You will not be sad forever, so long as you work for your happiness.
Books + Netflix
These two are crucial. They take you away to the places you want to go and make you be the people you want to be. If you’re going through a rough time, dwelling will only make it worse. Let these characters take you away and occupy your mind. But don’t become dependent on them. Let it take you away but then take action and move forward to become those people and get to those places in the movies and books.
Hit send and don’t look back.
There is no caveat for this one. Every thought that pops into your head, whether positive or negative, happy or sad, has validity. Someone, something, somewhere inspired this thought… it’s not just “for nothing.” Put your ideas and thoughts out there, and then see what becomes of them. If you have something you want to tell someone, type the message and hit send. Having too much pride and playing the “who cares less” game ruins lives. So what if you’re afraid that their response will not be the one you wanted. So what if what you have to say changes things between you two. That’s the way it was meant to be. Better to be heard than remain silent.