Graduation is a joyous occasion. It’s the culmination of nearly two decades of work within America’s education system. Our diplomas are the prize that make the blood, sweat, tears, long nights doing homework and (for Spring 2020 graduates) a seemingly never-ending Spring Semester forever shifted because of an international pandemic. Graduates should be proud. Graduation season is an emotional roller coaster. Graduating gives you a shot of euphoria but you find yourself tearing up at the reality of the tact that this four-year ride at your beloved institution is really over. I know it all too well. I even wrote about the feeling a couple of hours before I graduated this past December.
As college graduates, especially in this day and age, we have a huge dilemma. What’s the next move? What’s the new game plan? We’ve conquered four years of undergrad so what now? Some of us come out of our universities with big-time job offers from Fortune 500 companies or places where we interned. Others are commissioned to go into the service and defend our country. But, what about the new graduates that don’t know the answer to the question of “What now?” Even moreso, what about the students that thought long and hard their last semester about what they wanted to do post-graduation and it didn’t offer a plan of microwave success that is seemingly an expectation once our degrees are conferred?
There’s a sense of pressure that comes with our graduation. That pressure is the expectation that now that we’ve finished with college that we can automatically function as successful, gainful, self-sufficient adults. It’s almost unfair. It’s unfair that our parents start conversations with “When I was your age I was….” Saying that discounts the fact that the world is different than it was 20-30 years ago. Jobs aren’t at a surplus anymore. You can make money “being on social media all day”. There wasn’t a pandemic that’s crippled the national economy and job force. We don’t even get the real chance to celebrate our success because the weight of the expectation to be just as good, if not better, than previous generations.
Social media doesn’t make things any better. It provides an even larger pressure to have things together. Seeing all of your friends putting together a lucrative post-graduation life makes you wonder if the grass is even green on your side of the fence. We have such an expectation to promote ourselves and our achievements that we have a high to announce of every move to be successful. It’s not a life update. It’s a “get like me” challenge. We’re all rushing to our Instagram and Twitter feeds to show our brand new internship, job offer or grad school announcement to continue to write our personal narrative of being young, black and educated. Of course, everyone doesn’t play into this category. But, enough of us do. So, it deserves to be mentioned.
New graduates, it’s ok not to have everything together right after you graduate. It’s ok to not have job offers lined up in your Gmail inbox. It’s ok to take a couple of months and figure out who you are and what direction you’re heading in life. That’s how we can develop more young alumni that yield successful lives post graduation. Simply put, just leave new graduates alone. Let us be and allow us to take life at our pace.
The community needs to embrace this philosophy. Just let the graduates develop at our own pace. At the very least, give us a year. Give us a year to figure things out and get things together. Don’t push us out the house. Don’t pressure us to get our lives together on a hyper time scale. Let us put the puzzle pieces together ourselves. The aforementioned statements definitely should be stressed as the COVID-19 quarantine rages on.
New graduates have an even larger hurdle to cross with the Coronavirus pandemic. Life as we know it has changed. Just packing up and moving out the house to start your life isn’t realistic anymore. Tens of millions of people are unemployed as well as several jobs (many that correlate with our majors) aren’t hiring. Spring 2020 graduates even had to deal with suddenly ending their college careers and transitioning to online learning. It’s such a mental toll that they conquered. Allow these graduates time to decompress. When the nation opens up and we get to a semblance of normalcy keep this energy. Peace of mind is the greatest gift that you can afford a new graduate.
Graduates, take your time. Success is a marathon and not a sprint. Take it from someone that’s running along right beside you. You will miss college life. It is true that you won’t be around as many people that look like you going through the same trials and tribulations in your life ever again. But, it will get better. And you will be successful alumni ready to change a world that’s in desperate need of new leadership and shift from the norm.