It's very rare that I'm up this late, so for the record, I would like to log the time.
At the tone, the time is...1:22 AM on May 10th, 2015..._tone_.
Now, onto the meat of the post. As of yesterday (May 9th, 2015, for those who missed it), the remaining majority of my friends at
college have completed their undergraduate course of study and have graduated. I applaud them for their accomplishment and wish them
nothing but the best. They have worked hard to get there and have earned every step they take to cross the stage, diploma in hand.
However, that said, I believe it may be time for a retrospective. I'm a fan of these, as I find they tend to hold a lot of value,
even if the value is only presnet in hindsight. Plus, I've been out for drinks this evening, and what better time to write something
like this than with a mind infused with the wonderful offerings of http://www.dogfish.com[Dogfish Head Brewery]. So, without further
ado, the retrospective.
While out and about tonight, one of my newly-graduated friends sent a text to my fiance with the simple statement that follows -
"I don't feel like I've graduated". I couldn't help but smile and nod. But underneath, the inevitable gears started turning; a quick
look back was in order and, apparently, long overdue. What did it feel like when I graduated, an _ancient_ three years in the past?
In hindsight, not too different from what (I'm guessing) our friend is feeling tonight.
I can remember my commencement pretty clearly. I can remember waking up relatively early, knowing full and well what was expected
of me that day. I can remember meeting my family for lunch prior to my ceremony. I remember slightly nervous conversation with
fraternity brothers and friends during the setup for the ceremony itself. During the ceremony, I very clearly remember the alumnus that
spoke; his speech explaining to us that we are the generation that will change the world for the better. That we need to make an
impact while the opportunity is present; there is no tomorrow and waiting for the right time only ensures that it is gone once we
realize it. That our education and the institution we have grown up in has formed us into the leaders and visionaries that we will
one day become. That, if you will, the world is ours for the taking, and we only need to put forth the effort to take it.
And yet, after all the pomp and circumstance, the feeling didn't seem to fit the day. I was a graduate, yet what did I have?
A job? Not yet, although not for a lack of trying. A sense of accomplishment? Well of course - and rightfully so; I'd earned it after
how many years of hard work and effort. But no matter how I approached it, something still felt..._off_. And then it finally hit me.
I was missing the understanding of adulthood. I had gained some insight over my undergraduate years, but nothing could cover this topic.
I had matured. I had learned. I had tried; failures and successes ensued. However, despite the variety of experiences I'd gained,
adulthood was still the elusive goal. The phantom, always in the corner of my eye, yet always just out of reach. And the more I focused
on it, the harder it seemed to be. After all these years on my own, I found myself woefully unprepared.
* *Job offers*...how to discern the good from the bad? The honest from the deceptive? I still couldn't tell you. I simply do the best
that I can, knowing that the future depends on the decisions I make today.
* *How do I manage my debts?* I still don't know. And it scares the hell out of me. Over the last 6 or so years, I've accumulated quite a
large IOU. Everyone seems interested in getting back what's theirs. And I can't blame them. I also can't say I didn't expect it.
But I sure as hell wasn't prepared for it.
* How do I make my way in the world? Sure, I've learned everything I could from my studies. I've practiced and read and studied until
I didn't think I could push forward, and then I pushed forward anyway. But for what? Academic understanding? Only so I can sit down
my first day on my brand new job and realize I knew nothing?
But then, I began to think deeper. And from within those thoughts, I saw the value in what I'd accomplished. I had no business knowledge.
I had no understanding of the job offers I'd been presented or the debts I was now responsible for. But what I had carried with me from
my years was the ability to *reason*.
Within that ability lies the value of my collegiate studies. Sure, I had no idea of the world I had _graduated_ into. Sure I didn't
understand fully the financial situation I'd stumbled into. But I have my mind. It is the single tool I need. It is the only asset I have,
however scary that may be. And whether I learned it from Eastern Illinois University or from the prior 21 years of experience I'd
accumulated, I had learned to think. And learn. And those traits alone will ensure my success or failure in this life. It seems
incredibly harsh, but it is true. If I do not think and reason, and I do not continue to push forward in my quest for knowledge,
I will fail. I will be left behind. I will be relegated to the trash bin.
So graduates, it is with great humility, I come forward with a *tl;dr*. In 140 characters or less. You can tweet it if you'd like.
Here it goes--
You have worked hard for this. This right to think and reason. You feel no different, yet you are powerful now. Be smart, use it wisely. <3