If you could go back to the day you graduated college, would you have anything to tell yourself? I’d definitely tell myself not to drink as much the night before because it was a rough ceremony, but that’s a story for another day. I graduated college 10 years ago, so today I’m sharing 10 things I wish I would have known back then.
- The road isn’t straight. Embrace the curves. Don’t turn around and keep looking for the straightest, cleanest path. I spent a lot of time trying to force something to work before just letting go (after a lot of failures) and realizing how important the curves of life are in both relationships and work. Be flexible but don’t be complacent. Following the twists and adapting to a change in the course does not require settling.
- Your dream job now doesn’t exist, let it go! What you think you want as a 22-year old college grad will not be what you want or need by the time you’re 25, 28, or now. Have dreams, set goals, but don’t let hanging onto those dreams hold you back from finding something greater than what you imagined for yourself.
- Make your own choices, regardless of what other people tell you. I know this one is trite, but it’s honestly a struggle so many people, including myself, still face. The end of college and particularly after graduation is one of the first times everyone around starts moving at a different pace and in different directions. It’s overwhelming. You need to trust yourself and do what is best for you, even if that means it ultimately doesn’t work out. I’ve learned the most from my failures.
- Don’t ask for advice, but do ask for help. Know the difference between these two things to avoid getting unsolicited opinions from people who don’t understand what you’re doing. Ask people for help whenever you need it and don’t be embarrassed – needing help is NOT a sign of weakness, stupidity, insecurity or any of the other ugly words the dark side of your brain wants to tell you. But asking for help is not the same thing as asking for advice. If you’re rooted in your core values and know what you want and deserve, you don’t need advice. You need help figuring out how to best reach your goals. The conversation should never turn into one that encourages you to give up on a dream you’re chasing just because it’s not what someone else would do or because it’s something someone else doesn’t understand. If I listened to all of those moments of unsolicited advice, I would have missed out on some of the most rewarding, challenging, and influential experiences.
- If you keep thinking about something or someone – pursue it! If you want to call that person and tell them you care about them, do it. If you want to try something, try it! Stop trying to pre-determine how people will react or respond. Speak and act from your heart with good intentions and it will all work out.
- Operating with honesty in all aspects of your life will never fail you, but it might stall you. It’s worth it. Sometimes the person being honest loses the sprint but wins the marathon. You’ll be faced with many opportunities to fudge things – don’t fall into that temptation trap. Tell the truth, try to do the right thing. Eventually, you’ll be rewarded.
- There’s no hurry, slow down and be present. So what if you’re a few minutes late? (I’m actually never late but I swear it’s because I live this way) If you don’t feel like going out – stay in! If you want to just stay inside on a beautiful day and binge watch a TV show in bed with your dog, it’s okay! You might not have these moments again so stop over-scheduling yourself.
- Treat yourself (within reason) – set a goal and set a reward at the same time! It took me a little while to realize the importance of this, but now, it’s the best thing I do. You should treat yourself with something more than just reaching the goal. But, you’re not a dog, don’t reward yourself with food (all the time)!
- Travel, dine out, spend time with friends, and do what you want without feeling guilty. As someone who spent half of the last 10 years pursuing advanced degrees, I literally always having something work related I could be doing. But, school and work is only one part of my life, it is not my entire life. Everyone has to eat, might as well eat with people you like or at a place you enjoy. It’s okay to take a break and travel because you’ll come back re-energized and refreshed. Don’t listen to people who tell you not to do these things or who judge you for seemingly “not working enough.”
- You operate on your own timeline and you define your own success – do not compare yourself to others and don’t do things just because “it’s the right time.” Don’t get married because your friends are getting married. Don’t have kids because of your age if you’re not ready. Don’t feel pressure to buy a house, or get into a relationship, or get a different job. You’re at your own pace in your own race. When the sun shines, it shines on everyone.
Want to know more about my journey to being The PhDiva? Check out this post. Share the advice you’d give yourself when you graduated in the comments! 🙂