5 Things I’ve Learned In One Year After the Cap & Gown

One year. Can it really have been a year since I donned that black cap and gown and walked single file with all of my classmates to accept a diploma that officially ushered me into adulthood?
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In one year, I have gotten married, gone on a honeymoon, moved into our first apartment, started my first “big girl job,” and bought our first home. I have made new friends and kept old ones. We have learned to balance a budget, pay bills, and make wise purchases. I have had identity crises and questioned my purpose. I have had days where all seems right with the world.

I heard someone say that “the days feel long, but the years feel short.” Never has this felt more true. In some ways I feel like I am still a college student on a long, arduous summer vacation. In other ways, my time at Belmont University feels like another lifetime.

To all of my friends graduating this month from your respective universities, the knowledge I have gained over a year is meager, yet the glimpses of wisdom God has given me seem to beg to be shared. I’m sure in fifty years, ten years, even one year from now, I will look back on this and laugh at how little I knew at 22–just like I do now when I read through the journals of my adolescence, but this is where God has me now, and I am thankful.

Dear one-year-ago Chandler,

Here are a few tips of the trade I’ve picked up in a year out in the world.

1. No one really knows exactly what they want to do when they graduate from college.

My English professors would have told me not to make a universal statement, but for the sake of impact, let’s just say that it’s true. We enter college wide eyed and fresh out of high school. We barely know how to make easy mac in the dorm room microwave without burning it–much less what our forever plan looks like. We spend four years honing our skills and narrowing down our interests, and then we expect to graduate with a clear image of our dream job and exactly what we want to accomplish with our lives.

I am beginning to realize that I only touched the surface of my journey to self discovery in college, and all I can do right now is serve the Lord with my current circumstances and allow His plan for my life to unfold. I also realize that it will probably be years before I truly know what my “dream job” looks like. If I did have my life planned out for the next 25 years, the plan would probably be shot in five years anyway.

I am in a job that I love with work that challenges me and people that care about things that matter. I am grateful, and I’m taking one step at a time.

2. Twenty-somethings are really diverse people.

After college graduation, everyone changes out of their matching cap and gown, packs up the car, and moves on to the next stage of life.
Jack and Jill get married and settle down in a nice suburban neighborhood.
Jane moves home to save money.
Jim goes to graduate school.
Jen gets a 9-5 job downtown, lives with a roommate, and invests in her first tailored suit.
John picks up odd jobs, couch surfs, and parties while he’s young.
Joe takes a year off to backpack across Europe barefoot and gain life experience.
As I have witnessed my friends’ transitions into this next phase of life, I have watched in amazement at the way that God’s plan differs for everyone. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel that by the time people hit 30, the playing field begins to even. More people are married with kids, have purchased their first home, have found a job they plan on keeping for at least a few years, and have begun to establish stability. There are of course exceptions to every rule, and there is diversity among every age group, but for the young and the restless, there are so many paths to choose. It’s okay to do your own thing.

3. I Still Have So Much To Learn

I make little mistakes and I don’t understand things. I work so hard and try to do everything right, and then I find I left a trail of errors behind me. It is humbling and frustrating and embarrassing.

I spent 17 years of life actively learning. I listened to lectures, wrote papers, read books, and took tests to prove my knowledge. I scored well on my standardized tests and maintained a high GPA in college. I knew how to work the system.

Well the system changed, and now I am in kindergarten again at the school of life.

I am thankful that so many people are older and wiser than I am and can teach me what I need to know. I pray God gives me a teachable spirit and that I never think I am too old to learn a lesson.

4. Adult Friendships Take More Effort But Have Great Reward
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The flexibility of college schedules, frequency of social activities, and close proximity of living make for easy socializing in college. I have such good memories of late night study groups, spontaneous Waffle House runs at 2 a.m., lazy afternoons on the lawn in the quad, and deep theological discussions at the cafeteria. Socializing hardly took effort, and friends seemed to come naturally.

In the “real” world, friendships take cultivating. You must plan times to spend with friends and coordinate schedules. Intentionality is key. Especially for those of us that got married right out of the gate, relationships with people other than your spouse are easy to push by the wayside (and certainly ought to take second place).
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Despite the change, I have had some of my sweetest times with friends in this year. I have developed new relationships and started to realize who the deep friendships are that will last for years to come. As so many people I know navigate the uncharted waters of complete independence simultaneously, we find a common bond. Also, as I have moved into adulthood, the age gap between myself and those ten years older seems to have narrowed.

5. Growing up can be fun.

Peter Pan would certainly disagree, but I believe it. There are new responsibilities and stresses I have never experienced before, but I have loved the experiences I have had and the joys of figuring out what I believe and what life is going to look like. So, younger self, don’t lose heart that your years of school are over. I believe the best is yet to come.

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