by Emily Day
From the age of 5 to 18, we are placed in a building with at least 20 other kids around our age all there for the same purpose: to learn. We learn how to read and write and the power words have to influence entire nations. We learn about numbers and formulas and how they have the power to create everything from the chairs we sit in to shuttles that send people to space. We learn how the world works and how everything from the smallest bumblebee bat to the largest blue whale has an impact on one another.
We also learn a lot about ourselves. We discover what interests us and what we find dull. We learn who our friends are and those we don’t get along with. We learn what we value and what we are willing to compromise. We discover our talents and what we struggle to understand. We learn how to humbly succeed and we learn how to fail with grace. We learn how to interact in our world when it is easy and when it is hard. We discover how to learn from our differences and our similarities. Ultimately, we learn who we are, who we want to become and what we must to do to get where we want to go.
For those of us crazy enough to continue our schooling, we spend between 4 to 12 more years learning with people who have similar interests and career goals. Eventually, there comes a point where we must stop simply learning and just do it. We must step out of the comfort of classes, schedules and order into the chaos that comes when entering the mythical “real world.”
As I am in the midst of my final semester of college, I have been forced to confront a lot of my fears associated with going out on my own and finally doing what I have spent most my life preparing to do. Am I even qualified to graduate? What if no one hires me? Where will I go? What if I’m not ready to leave everything and everyone I love?
Every time we reach a turning point in our lives, we are forced to confront the unknown. For me, that is life after school. I have been a student for almost 17 years. Most of my life has been spent learning and doing life with my family and friends. I never had to worry about where I was going or what I was doing because, for the most part, it was all scheduled out in an eight-period day or based on the number of credits I was taking that semester. I had structure, I had order and I had my best friends by my side.
But now, in a few short months, I will be embarking on the craziest and most terrifying chapter of my life. (Yes, I know it’s a bit clichéd.) Being the type-A, over-planner that I am, the prospect of job applications is petrifying. All I think about is being rejected and not having any control over it. However, the prospect of not applying at all is equally terrifying. I don’t think I could stand the haunting questions of “what if.” So naturally, being the overly-clichéd person that I am, my fears reside not in success or defeat, but in the unknown. I have no idea where I’ll end up. I don’t know if, by the time I reach graduation, I will have a job or a place to live. I may end up in a place where I don’t know anyone and I’ll have to relearn how to make friends.
Yet the more I think about all the major decisions and changes ahead of me, I begin to realize how blessed I truly am. Not everyone gets the privilege to plan their futures or decide what they want to do with their life. Not everyone has the opportunity to receive an education, let alone lives with their friends while doing it. Not everyone has professors who not only want them to succeed academically, but also invest in their students’ eternal future. Not everyone knows that there is a God who loves them and has created them for a specific purpose, which He had prepared for them before the foundations of the earth was laid. Yet, I do. So, why do I spend so much time dwelling on the “what ifs” or the uncontrollable unknowns?
So here it is, a sure-fire list of rules that will guarantee you will have the most AWESOME final semester of all time. (Because clearly I have so much experience on the subject.)
The Rules: The Very Last One
Live in the Now
No, I am not saying stop all planning for the future and just follow where the wind leads you or some other hippie lifestyle cliché because that is utterly ridiculous. Not to mention it totally goes against everything I have ever believed in. What I am saying is take advantage of your current circumstance. Take time to love the people around you and make the best of every situation. The more time you take to invest in your family and friends now, the more likely you will be able to maintain your relationships if/when you are no longer in the same space.
Take the Leap
What I mean is don’t be afraid to completely abandon your comfort zone. When we get too comfortable, we become complacent and then we just stop trying altogether. So, apply for that job you find intriguing but may be on the other side of the country. Stop limiting your options to opportunities that only highlight your strengths. Use this unique stage of life to grow your skill set and to grow as a person.
Never Stop Learning
Yes, I know I said that you eventually must stop simply learning and just do, but there will never come a point in your life, professionally, personally or otherwise, that you will finally know it all. You will always have strengths, but you will also always have weaknesses. There is always going to be somebody who knows more than you. Become friends with people who are smarter than you. Use them as motivation to be better.
Just Trust God
No matter where you go, no matter what you do, if you are in Christ, God has gone before you. He has been using every person and every situation to help prepare you and shape you in to the person you need to be. He knows when you are ready for the next step and will guide you exactly where you need to go. All you have to do is listen and go.
I may never be ready for the “real world,” but over time I have learned that it’s not really about me being ready. It’s about me being willing to trust God’s leading and follow his plan for my life.
So, I leave you with this most profound (clichéd) thought:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on you’re own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”
~Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
Emily Day is a senior journalism major and arts & entertainment editor for Cedars. Since she is majoring in communications, she is doomed to a life of unemployment and debilitating debt. Luckily she is friends with many Engineers who will be supporting her until she dies.