Welcome to the Real World Graduates, We’re All Mad Here!

Congratulations, class of 2017!

Welcome to the moment you have been waiting for, the moment you have been working towards – your whole life sometimes it seems – and now that moment is here. It is a monumental bridge to cross, and you deserve every moment of celebration, of congratulatory adulation, and a little (or a lot) of the self-indulgence coming your way.

But like a line drawn in the sand, reaching this point is only half the battle. It may feel like before you’ve even started to pat yourself on the back it’s already gone, disappeared by the unfeeling tide, and all you are left with is another line drawn further down in the distance. You crossed the finish line, only to find out that the end was just the beginning. The race hasn’t stopped; you’ve just found a new starting point. That bang you just heard? It is not another confetti gun singing you praises, it is the signal telling you to start running again.

That’s the exciting part though, isn’t it? The whole world now is at your fingertips, a blank canvas waiting for your brush strokes to fill its vastness with colour. What can you do when you find you can do anything? Survey says: curl up in a corner and cry.

You’re not alone, trust me. How many of us find ourselves standing on the edge of opportunity, yet crippled by the very possibility that is supposed to free you? There it is again, that deep seated fear of the unknown, raising its ugly head just as we decide to try something, to head somewhere, but with one snap of its teeth we quickly pull ourselves back.

I’ve been there. In those last months, nay, in that whole last year before graduating I was mixing pure excitement with dread, knowing that when I finally crossed that stage I was not only gaining a milestone from life’s list, but also shedding the only life that I’d known. A sheltered life of rules and regulations – where everything was regimented and clear – being replaced by a space where no Administration’s Office was going to fix my problems with an appointment, and no set amount of years and courses was going to determine my success. There’s no graduation date in the real world, no four more years before the next line in the sand. Welcome to the real wonderland, Alice, we’re all definitely mad here.

But take heart, don’t give in to your anxieties just yet. What is there to fear? It is simply the unknown, the unpredictable, the all-consuming devil of the two words: what if? When a world of possibilities is at your feet, what can go right can go wrong just as easily. This is our major fallacy. Too often, when we think ahead to our future the focal point of our imagination falls solely on the worst case scenario scenes, and to add insult to injury, we then falsely believe in these. The dramas in our heads become reality TV, and we begin to fear our future before it has even come to pass. Like a chess master playing their opponent by thinking several moves ahead, we convince ourselves that this type of planning is simply hedging for our future. But we have left out one important key to the game – when the opponent you’re trying to outmaneuver is Life, you can never win by planning out anything.

Unpredictability is the beauty of life and its raison d’être, and the hardships in life come from when we try to throw ourselves against this truth. It is the perpetual windshield and we are the bug – fighting against it we will never win. When you try to figure out the future – hope to order it around to fit exactly how you want it to turn out – you are simply inviting unhappiness in. After all the future has the upper hand, it knows what you want because you’ve demanded it, but it has the power to operate without any consideration for your wishes. You may lose every single time.

“Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.”                                                                                                                                                                                              – Erma Bombeck 

So how do you beat it? How do you take on those never ending anxieties, that soul crushing unease of facing a future full of unending possibilities? Whether it is now when you’re first dipping your feet into the waters of post-graduation, or ten years from now already with many jobs and careers under your belt, still facing the same old fears every time a new opportunity raises itself up – the answer is simple: Live here. Be in the now. Think and experience in the present. Whatever you’re facing, let it be whatever is actually happening; take that in and work with it whether it’s what you wanted, or even if it’s something unwanted unexpectedly. In the present you have the tools to deal with your reality. That is something to focus on, not the mythical possibility of something that could happen five steps down the road, into a future that hasn’t happened yet. That is just asking for unwarranted stress.

Take things as they come, leave things when they don’t. Let the future determine itself, it will come regardless. You can’t plan for what it will bring, but you can plan for just one thing – believe in yourself, believe in your capability to be okay. Bet on your future perseverance, your future endurance, and bet that whatever will come to pass it will be with you standing astride it, going with it, not ducking down in fear and defeat. Take on this world bravely; you are ready for it. Everything is going to be okay.

Onward and upwards!

Author’s Note: Hitting that graduation milestone deserves some well earned R&R, so if you’re getting out on that open road this summer in a car with the windows down, or backpacking somewhere remote, here’s a good soundtrack to get you in those summer vibes – Tales From the Thuoc Lao                                                                                            As always, new post every Wednesday!

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