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The Blue & Gray Press | October 23, 2017

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Venture out of your comfort zones, graduates

Venture out of your comfort zones, graduates

By SAMANTHA GROSS

I ended up at a party this weekend that was inhabited almost solely by University of Mary Washington graduates. This coincidence, as it turned out, was both panic inducing and depressing. I could hardly hear anything else amidst the shouts of “appreciate it while you still can!” and “life sucks after college” and “drink A LOT.” As a senior who lives in a perpetual state of anxiety about the rest of her life anyway, this was not reassuring.

It’s a pretty sobering moment when you realize that the path you have been blindly following since you were five is just over. You start off learning your ABCs and end up writing 15-page papers on gender equality in “Kill Bill,” but then what? No one tells you that part. Hopefully, you just know, but whether or not you know yet, everyone still asks you what your “plans” are.

Usually I try to laugh it off with a light, “Ha! Now that’s a great question. Who knows? Not me. Now did you say you wanted a medium or a large latte?”

Sometimes I find that this is a satisfying answer, but the majority of the time I can see the doubt and worry flit across their faces. How are you going to support yourself? How are you going to amount to anything? Why aren’t you more prepared?

Here is my question in response to this: why is there so much pressure on graduation? This is such a free time in our lives. It is a crippling and anxiety-inducing kind of freedom, but it is freedom none-the-less.

Most of us do not have any real roots yet, and for the first time ever we have the choice to explore our personal lives instead of our academic ones. Why not take this time to teach abroad in Japan or farm in New Zealand? Why not move to a new city where you do not know anyone and see what comes from that change? If there is any time to do these things, it is now.

At this point, it might sound like I am living in a hippy-dippy dream world where money, jobs and further education do not matter, but I can assure you that this is not true.

Granted, not everyone is able to or even wants to run away and do weird, risky things. As the old and probably over-used saying goes, “Sometimes life just gets in the way.”

But if you are one of those talented and lucky people who get an amazing job right out of school, I am, begrudgingly, happy for you. I am also reluctantly, but genuinely, happy for you if you know what you love and are about to pursue that full force.

However, I also want to encourage the people who do not know what they are going to do with their lives and need something to tell the teachers, friends, family and strangers that are constantly barraging them with questions about their “plans.”

You are free. Do new things, meet new people, find out what you love before you seriously pursue it. Did you know that people will pay you to do cool things in cool places? Because they will. And people are impressed when you tell them that you’re thinking of living in Madrid for a year, so now you have something to get everyone off of your back. I’ve thought about this stuff a lot, and even though it makes me nervous, I appreciate how open this time is in our lives. Embrace it.