Dear Class of 2016,
First of all, congratulations! You’ve probably been hearing that a lot lately, whether in person or in a card, and the well-wishes are probably oozing out of your ears. But seriously, take a moment today to say, “Yes, I did it.” I know you’ve just finished finals, res life is kicking you out of your dorm in 6 hours and you definitely don’t have enough boxes for all your stuff. But amid all the craziness, take a moment for yourself to soak in and remember the day by.
OK, that was the preliminary advice. Now for the actual point of this letter: be a work in progress. Yes, you’ve worked hard and accomplished amazing things, but you’re only at the beginning. And despite what you might tell yourself, it’s OK to not have it all together. It’s OK to be scared, confused, and anxious about your future. Not having a job or internship lined up after graduation doesn’t make you a failure. Delaying further education doesn’t make you unfocused. Taking a gap year doesn’t make you lazy (just ask Malia Obama.) And on the other side of the spectrum, it’s OK if your first job or grad school program isn’t right for you. Don’t measure your self-worth based on where you think you should be at this point in your life. You are more than your resume.
So what do I mean when I say “be a work in progress”? I mean that you should allow yourself to explore, grow, make mistakes, and change your mind. Nobody has it all figured out. And if you think you have it all figured out now, you’ll be amazed at how quickly and radically your plans can change. Being a work in progress does not make you a failure, or unfocused, or lazy. It makes you human. Even the top professionals in any field, who have decades of experience, are constantly growing and working toward the next goal.
Be a work in progress. Take a step toward your next goal every day, even if it is a very small step, like sending out three job applications or putting aside just a small amount for an apartment or for grad school. Make it a concrete step, not just a thought, but an action. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. You are not alone. Your small efforts will add up and you will start to see progress.
Be a work in progress. When you wake up every morning, try to be a more patient, more generous, more loving person than you were the day before. It is never too late to try again, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. It will be difficult, especially when everyone else around you is becoming more self-serving. But it is not impossible.
Be a work in progress. Don’t compare yourself to others. I know it’s tempting to social media stalk all your classmates and see if your accomplishments measure up to theirs. Don’t do it. If you find yourself scrolling through picture after picture of your friend’s chic apartment in a new city, step away. It’s OK to ask your friends about their post-grad plans, but that conversation is a lot better to have in a private message or even *gasp* in person. Trust me, I am not a social media hater; in fact, I probably spend way too much time on it. But as most of us have figured out, Instagram stalking is not the best confidence booster. As my best friend always tells me, “You have done enough. You are enough.”
Be a work in progress. Surround yourself with other works in progress. Inspire each other and cheer each other on.
In a world that constantly demands a finished product, be brave. Be a work in progress.
Congratulations to the Class of 2016, especially my sister, who graduated two weeks ago, and my cousin, graduating this weekend.