Today marks 365 days since I walked across the stage at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire and accepted my Bachelor degree.
It was a long journey to get to where I was just one year ago. From the day I held back tears and waved to my parents as I walked onto Larkin Field for orientation, to four years later, in the moments I hugged my dear friends as we parted ways. It was a journey that began and ended with “goodbye,” but it was well worth every second.
Relocating to New Hampshire, a place where I knew nothing and no one, was incredibly difficult. It took me some time to adjust, but eventually I found my place. With writing, friends, and classes. The lessons I learned in those times I felt utterly lost and alone, as hard as they were at the time, prepared me for the shock I encountered when I flew to Ireland and felt like the world was one second from caving in. In both cases, starting over proved me to be a stronger individual than I ever thought possible.
I learned how to treat people with respect even when differences were overwhelming. I learned to let go of relationships when they were doing more harm than good, and in some instances, how to mend broken or fractured things. How to relish every moment of sleep (and then get up, get ready, and get to class in under ten minutes). That things that are different aren’t necessarily bad, they’re just different. That it’s okay to have regrets, as long as you understand that you are where you are for a reason. It’s okay to not have it all together all the time. To hide in your room and listen to really loud music and paint bad watercolors until you don’t feel angry anymore. Sometimes you can learn more from what-not-to-do lessons than from what-to-do lessons. I learned how to focus my energy on myself and my passions, and to not apologize for being the person I am.
These lessons have accumulated to more than just that really expensive piece of paper with my name on it. They have made me the strong, hard-headed, open-minded, fearless human I am to this day. I count myself lucky that I had four years to learn all of those lessons (and more) in such a special environment. To figure my life out.
I have been part of the “real” world for a year now. It is scary, of course (mostly the uncertainty of everything). But it’s quite a myth, in my opinion–this “adulthood” thing. You’re a fool if you’ve figured it out and a fool if you haven’t. No one knows what they’re doing. The lessons I’ve learned in the past year have not impacted me with the same force as the ones I learned when I was hidden away in my college-world. I will, of course, learn harder and more complicated lessons as time passes. But my four years in college taught me so much of who I am now. They brought some of the most incredible people into my life, people who I will cherish friendships with for years to come.
What I’m saying is, the “real” world is not so bad. It’s not much different than every other world I’ve lived before. It can be hard to find somewhere to fit in a different place or stage of life, but it is all quite real. It’s one step in front of the other, day after day. And one day, things will just click.