You’ve Been Given A Lot of Advice Everyone wants to give you their two cents - from your academic advisor to your coach to your mom to your great aunt with the 4 cats - everyone is a little too quick to let you know that they know how you feel. They’ve been here before. They were in your shoes once too, but if you do exactly what they did? You’ll be alright. You’ve been given a lot of advice. People care - and that’s why they share their own experiences and try to save you from making the same mistakes they did, or waiting as long as they did to realize something beautiful. But no one seems to acknowledge the fact that their voice is just one of many. So so many. They’re happy to help with their words but for the first time in your life, no one has taken it upon themselves to prepare a schedule for how you are supposed to handle the next six months, or the next year, or the next five years of your life. People jump at the chance to tell you how important it is to create a budget and stick to it, but no one ever outlines the correct way to wade through all of the different ways to budget. You’ll be encouraged to “get involved” and “find a community” but no one ever tells you what to do when there are too many communities out there, and you’ve just recently found yourself in the process of realizing that maybe you’re not as extroverted as you once thought. All the friends who graduated a year or two ahead of you are so ready to show you the best bars and the best apartment complexes and the tightest-knit community of other faith-filled people ( just! like! you!) but they’ll forget to acknowledge the fact that maybe your perspective is different than their own, and that’s ok. Maybe they’re in a different stage of life than you are, and that’s ok. Maybe their work hours are different and they live in a different time zone and their family demands have evolved in a different way than yours have, and that’s ok. You don’t need more advice. You need to take ownership of the fact that you are the one who will choose which advice to follow and which advice to ignore. You are the one making decisions for your life and you are the one in charge of navigating all the do’s and don’ts. To start the navigation, it may be helpful to realize that at the root of all that advice are three themes that do. not. change: your life holds value, you’ve got something to offer, and you. will. need. Your Life Holds Value Not because your orientation leader will get in trouble if you don’t show up to team bonding - but because you take up space. And space taken up by you is different than space not taken up by you. A highway with you on it is different than a highway without you on it. A cereal aisle at Kroger with you (excuse me - the Cincinnati is showing) is different than a cereal aisle without you. You may have grown up saying you wanted to change the world someday. Life after college is all about turning around and realizing that you already have. Because you take up space - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. In the most scientific sense of the word - you matter. In the most spiritual sense of the word - you matter. Whether or not you change the world is not a decision you get to make. It’s going to happen, whether you realize it or not. On your best days and on your worst days, you are worthy of the life you’ve been given and you are capable of the navigation you’ve just been thrown in to. You get to decide how much goodness you put into the changing-the-world that is happening as a result of your presence and your life. You've Got Something to Offer You’ve got an abundance of things that you can share with the world. The encouragement to “get out there!” and “get involved!” is - I hate to say it - not all about you. When you imagine the future, you see the 25 seconds between getting out of the car and introducing yourself to a new group. But when your parents and your friends and your teachers (all those advice-givers) imagine the future, they see the 26-year-old they caught a glimpse of on your first day of Kindergarten. They see the potential they’ve always known was there. But the thing about potential is that it never becomes anything else unless it leaves the box that it’s in right now. Your value is in the fact of your life; your existence - it’s inherent. But your potential to impact the lives of others positively is realized only when you personally, decisively take the initiative to connect the you-on-your-first-day-of-kindergarten with the you-that-gets-out-of-the-car-and-introduces-yourself. To make that connection - (and you must do it. You. No one else is going to do it for you.) - you’ve got to figure out what it is that you’ve got to offer. You figure this out one step at a time: You figure this out by giving yourself time alone to think. You figure this out by sitting on your porch. You figure this out by sitting in front of Jesus in adoration. You figure this out by leaving your phone at home and going for walks around the neighborhood. You figure this out by doing something scary. You figure this out by sitting down and making a list. You figure this out by reflecting on your best memories, and the times when you felt most positive about yourself. You figure this out by entering into conversation with people you admire, and with people who admire you. You have something to offer, and oftentimes it is in an exchange with another person that you find value in that something. You figure this out by sacrificing a few dinners out and paying to take a high-quality personality test. You figure this out by watching cheesy motivational videos and paying attention to the ones that make you cry. You figure this out by becoming more and more aware of what happens to your heart after you take a step outside of your comfort zone. Step by step, you figure out what it is that you have to offer and then - drumroll please - you freaking offer it. You offer the heck out of it. Because if you don’t, it will sit inside a small little box in your soul. Box-bound potential is heavy. It weighs you down. It feels a lot like fear. Potential that has been set free is much lighter. It has wings. It feels a lot like confidence. You Will Need Any sort of initiation you’ve encountered - a new school, a new team, a new sorority, or fraternity - showed you immediately where your place was in the pecking order. It was made clear on day 1 that you had a role to play and that you were expected to play it in a certain way. You were told that you were new - and because you were new, you had a guide. A captain. A superior. Whether you liked it or not, you had a leader. The difference between that new school, or team, or sorority, or fraternity, and where you are now? Simple: outside the walls of your office building, you have no leader. There’s no orientation king or queen with a clipboard and a whistle. No megaphone. No signs directing: “Freshmen, this way!” You’re not going to be handed a packet of all the “New-Member Information” or “Fitness Test Requirements” that come with being an adult. You’re not going to get a new team jacket or an envelope with the name of your new Big. At times, it might feel like you’re being hazed but the sad, hard truth is that there’s no committee or Board of Directors orchestrating the initiation you’re in the middle of. You’ve got people watching out for you, yes - but there is not a single other person on this earth who is completely in charge of the direction in which your life is going. There is no one taking care of you in the same way you’ve been taken care of in the past. Your mom still loves you. She’ll still want to cook you meals, but honey - you’re a college graduate now. It’s time for you to learn how to cook a meal or two yourself and in order to learn how to do that, you have to ask. The pre-made, provided-by-the-school caretaker is gone, but the need is still there. You are responsible for finding a way to fill the need. If you don’t, you will suffer - and so will everyone around you. Emotional support: Given to you? No. Still needed? Yes. Money: Provided? No. Still needed? For sure. A Bedtime: Enforced externally? No. Still needed? You bet. A shoulder to cry on: In the RA office? No. Still needed? Absolutely. The opportunity to learn: Part of your tuition? No. Still needed? Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES. It’s scary to realize the difference between where you’ve been, and where you’re going - but there are people out there who are willing and ready to offer opportunities for every little thing that you are dependent on now. So many people. Growth doesn’t end after college, it expands exponentially. But it comes at the cost of a question: All you have to do is ask. And while you’re asking, remember that life after college is really not all about you. So many people need to feel needed. So many people are desperate to know whether or not they are needed. Make them feel needed. Ask them for help. You have what someone else is desperate for: your need. All The Advice You’ve Been Given Moral of the story is this: life after college is a lot to take in. You won’t be able to control how many bits of advice you get, but what you can control is the way you process it all. It is your job to process it all. Take ownership in the fact that you are worth it, you can help others in the midst of it, and it is absolutely necessary that you let others help you because: Your life holds value, You have something to offer, and You. will. need.
This blog was written by Tori Sanders.
You can find her on Instagram @untilifiguresomethingelseout.