I remember the feeling on graduation day; a feeling that was part relief and part fear, part nerves and part pride. I was proud of myself on graduation day. But I was also scared shitless. With the throw of a single cap I had thrown away the safety net of school. I was to become the teaching instead of the taught.
I was on my own from here on out.
I didn’t have any doubts about my future back in 2001. I was prepared for a year or so of substitute teaching that would be mixed within a flurry of interviews, one of which would blossom into a job teaching middle school science. I figured that if I found I didn’t like the career choice, at least I’d have given it a try and would move on five years down the road.
I never quite made it that far, actually, and now I supervise a telephone relay center. I enjoy what I do, surprisingly, and I know that teaching may not have been the field to enter.
Perhaps that’s a story for a different time.
I always feel refreshed to see new graduates, freshly minted members of the working society ready to take on the struggles of building a career from scratch. I remember the times when I was ready to do the same, the desire to take four to eight years of higher learning and applying it to something that would make your parents proud; to make myself proud.
I appreciate the joys that go along with the true passing of a milestone – the day that school becomes a memory, the day that the fabled “real world” begins, when all of the acquired knowledge that has been building up inside of a crammed brain can be put to use in a practical manner.
Some people get what they want right away, snatching a position before they’ve even heard “Pomp and Circumstance.” Others spend months or years waiting it out, building a network of skills and connections on their way to the ultimate position. Some, like me, end up someplace completely unconnected, finding out that a degree isn’t a promise, and that four years of school can be just the beginning, that college can’t give you the right answer if you don’t spend your time considering the right question.
I don’t feel at liberty to give any words of advice – I’m certainly not going to put myself at the level of commencement speaker, so be thankful for that. Still, it would be wise to remember the feeling that comes when you walk up to the podium, somehow without tripping, shake the hand of the university president, and know that even if nothing comes from this piece of cardboard in your hand (the real diploma won’t come for a few weeks,) you’ve still become something that many people aspire to, and that no matter what path you end up going down you’ll still be able to say you’re skilled at something – anything.
So with that, I congratulate those of you who are graduating.
Don’t worry – you’ve got six months to start paying off the loans.