We spend the first two decades or so of our lives being bred within the education system. We are taught that going to school is important and by the end of that last commencement ceremony, ultimately school is what we know. Then, all of a sudden, we are pushed out into the real world and expected to transition as though we didn’t just spend a majority of our time inside the walls of a classroom. The bubble that we were once in while in college gets popped. Defining ourselves outside the classroom is exactly why it is okay to graduate college without a plan.
1. There is no such thing as a perfect plan.
So, graduation is over. Celebrations finally die down, the last of your things are finally moved out of the old place, and it comes down the major question: now what? It suddenly becomes everyone else’s favorite question. Do you travel? Do you take any job that comes your way? What’s the plan? But turns out that not having a plan can sometimes be the best plan of all. Just remember: Facebook was started without a real plan and because it was fun. It now has over 400 million users.
Let’s start there. There is no such thing as a perfect plan for post grad life and comparing yourself to your fellow classmates will not make everything fall into place quicker. Even if you have a plan, it will probably turn out in a way that you can’t even imagine yet. You may think that your old friends, roommates, exes, WHOEVER, have it altogether. And by have it altogether, meaning a job, new apartment with roommates, a significant other, etc. Some may have these checked off of their list, but very rarely does a recent college grad have their shit completely together, for lack of a better term. Do not become caught in the trap of comparison. Congratulate the successes of those around you and help them up when the failure hits. Let the success of others motivate you. Plus, a perfect plan for anything in life will never exist. It doesn’t just apply to after graduation — yesterday’s plan may not work for tomorrow. Now is the time to get used to it.
2. Choices can be become paralyzing.
Just like picking a major in college seemed like a big decision towards a career, it can be daunting to make yet another big decision about that first job or step after graduation — that leap of faith. The infinite amount of choices can make it difficult to create a plan. For many, traveling or taking time off of school is not an option post graduation. Therefore, the decision to find a job is made. But finding a job that checks off more than a paycheck is crucial and doesn’t always happen. It’s admirable to take a job to pay the bills, but do not let yourself get stuck.
3. Learn to be kind, but not comfortable.
Appreciate being given the opportunity to invent this transition period and make it your own. Be kind to yourself about your decisions, mistakes, and failures. Be kind to those around you who are helping during this pertinent time. Do not get too comfortable during this shift. It is meant to be uncomfortable and the more you fight it, the worse it will be. The perfect plan to graduate with is being ready to be uncomfortable.
Time can be on your side. There’s a difference between being complacent and lazy, vs. allowing time to let yourself piece apart the person that came to be in college. Invest the time now into the hard-pressed questions and decisions. The opportunity to figure it out the way you have now will never come again. And remember: your time is valuable.
5. You will learn to say no.
You will learn to say no to other’s opinions and decisions that are ultimately not meant for you. People will always have things to say and sometimes, it can come from those who are closest to you (which may or may not be a good thing). Not everyone’s two cents matters, but yours definitely does. Drake said it best, “went and got diplomas and we still goin’ dumb”. It is okay to graduate college without a plan because as much as want a degree to prove we are qualified to step into the real world, it doesn’t. Our plan doesn’t define that. We do. Our new classroom is on a much bigger campus now.
Congratulations on finishing college and congratulations on entering the phase of sink-or-swim. It’s okay to tread water for a little bit, too. It is important to acknowledge that college was a stepping stone, and a major one at that. It was a time to find out who you are but the time right after graduation is when you prove it. This is when you’ll learn what you are made of — the safety net of being an undergraduate student is no longer there. We often become blindsided by the intensity of this emotionally charged transitional period, but make sure to knock on closed doors and honor the space between what is no longer and what is yet to come. Your plan will take shape and then change, take shape and change again.