Congratulations, Class of 2014. As Elle Woods would say, “We did it!” Or, rather, you did it.
You’ve come a long way to be here.
You’ve traveled through freshman dorms and first hangovers, one night stands and walks of shame, heartbreaks and jailbreaks and some very unfortunate, albeit memorable, meetings with Standards. You’ve trekked through recruitments and club meetings and nights you really can’t remember, papers you have no recollection of writing, tests you’d like to forget, and friendships you’ll forever hold dear. You’ve dealt with good boys and bad boys, good girls and bad girls, and some who fall somewhere in between. You’ve come close to failing classes, failing relationships, and once or twice, failing life–but you dusted off your knees and you got back up.
You don’t remember the name of every professor, every TA, or even every hookup, but you do, however, remember the name of the boy who always made sure you got home safely freshman year. To those boys, if you’re reading this, you’re the good ones. Thank you. You remember the smiles and the laughs and, though you wish you didn’t, you remember the tears. You remember your first exam, the first homework assignment you forgot to do, the first text you didn’t study for. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”–Brandi Glanville once said that, and you think it’s pretty applicable. There were Taco Tuesdays and $4 LITs and greasy hangover breakfasts in the dining hall. You once went to class in the clothes you wore out the night before–you wish you didn’t remember that. Then there was the time someone carried you out of the bar. You wish you didn’t remember that…or the subsequent times after that. Those, preferably, would’ve stayed in the dark.
There are moments and seconds that you’ll hold onto forever, yet there are days and months that will become nothing more than distant memories of a time that once was. As you look around in the library, or in a classroom, or in your apartment filled with empty boxes and even emptier liquor bottles, just take a moment to take it all in. Take in the dust-covered books and half-folded laundry and photos and paddles and boas and bows. Take in the friends and the laughs and the tearful hugs. Take in the past four years. Let it sink in. Let it smother you. Let it wash over you. Let it fill you so completely. Then, close your eyes, breathe, and let it go. Let it all go.
As you grab your bags and the books you never used, you’ll hang your head in teary-eyed misery–but know that your life is not over. Rather, dear college grads, your life has only just begun. And, so, in true homage to your college career, please allow yourself the three minutes to read this incredibly abbreviated, simplistically stated, SparkNotes edition of how to succeed outside of college.
1. No one owes you anything.
Since birth, you have been told that you can be anything you want to be. Unfortunately, your parents, just like my parents, lied. Odds are, you’ll never be an astronaut or an Academy Award winning actor. You may never be the president of the United States and you may never find a cure for cancer. You can, however, still be successful. But success takes work. It means starting at the bottom. It means long nights and caffeine-fueled mornings. It means little sleep and no weekends and making barely enough to just get by. Keep at it. You are just starting out. You are at the bottom. No one owes you anything, and you aren’t deserving of anything–yet. Prove yourself. That’s how you make it.
2. You still need your parents.
Yes, you’re a big kid now. And, yes, you still need Mom and Dad. Whether you’re moving back home or halfway around the world, there will come a time (many, actually) when you need advice, a shoulder to cry on, and, more often than anyone would care to admit, money. Just because you have a fancy piece of paper now, it does not mean that you can disregard the people who spent 22 years caring for you. Call them. Write them. Listen to their advice. Admit when you’ve fucked up. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
3. Wear a condom.
This should be pretty self-explanatory. Don’t be stupid.
4. You will be poor.
Odds are, many of you have never had to pay for a damn thing in your life. Let me tell you, speaking from personal experience, it sucks a big one to have Dad’s American Express pried from your clammy, little, hungover fingers. You go from the salary of successful, middle aged people, to the salary of an unsuccessful 20-something–and it’s a hard adjustment. If you haven’t figured it out by now, you’ll spend your first few years out of college eating Ramen and stealing toilet paper rolls from your place of employment. Don’t spend money you don’t have, don’t fall into debt, and learn to embrace boxed wine.
5. Health insurance is necessary.
As is car insurance. And also renter’s insurance. Essentially, if it’s offered, you need it.
6. Your best years are not behind you.
Yes, college is amazing, but those four years are not the greatest years you will ever know. It’s goodbye to frat parties and walks of shame and term papers you wrote an hour before they were due, and it’s hello to freedom and happy hours and expendable cash and someday in the not too far distance, marriage and babies and…life. Real life. The future is exciting. Don’t let yourself sell it short.
7. Being hungover at work sucks.
That’s not to say it won’t happen, because it will. Many times. Too many, actually. Take some Advil, chug a Gatorade, and take a nap in the bathroom.
8. Become the person you’ve always wanted to be.
The time for excuses has come and gone. Get off your couch and make your life happen. Read more. Volunteer. Turn off the TV. Pay attention to global affairs. Travel. Give back. Love more. Cry less. Laugh often. Learn a new language. Go for walks. Learn who you really are.
9. Purchase an iron.
Your hair straightener won’t cut it anymore.