So you’re graduating today. That’s cool. You should be excited / relieved / rarin’ to go! I know we were when we were in your (cap n’ gowns ‘n fancy) shoes.
Secretly, though, we alumni also know how frightening/sucky graduation day can be. Two years removed from my own graduation has not made this Afterword Blogger any better-equipped to deal with life, but it has made me realized that some strategies (or coping mechanisms) work better than others when dealing with Bucknell withdrawal.
First, keep in touch with those you crossed paths with here at Bucknell. This includes both your friends and your awesome professors. You may not realize this now, but keeping in touch with people becomes infinitely more difficult when geographical/emotional distance is involved. Add working three jobs with ridiculous hours to make ends meet / pay off student loans, and any meaningful contact with the outside world is virtually non-existent. I’ve always been bad with phones, but I distinctly remember a period in Fall 2009 in which I left my phone uncharged for a good two weeks. Yes, life can get that complicated. Just know that you have good friends who will check your Facebook to make sure that you are not dead, because, you know, you haven’t answered your phone in three weeks.
On a related note, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Applying for a job? Recruit a nerdy friend to read over your cover letter. Unsure about pursuing grad school? Shoot an e-mail to a former professor and ask for their advice. Asking for help also includes taking care of your emotional / physical needs. Life can be stressful and hard on the joints — you should never feel obligated to go through these sorts of growing pains on your own. The Bucknell website is chock-full of resources for recent graduates, and just know that the cool kids here at the AFTERWORD are happy to answer any questions that you may have about, well, whatever.
Third, for the love of god, don’t be so hard on yourself. We get it — you’re a recent Bucknell graduate, president of god-knows how many organizations, and one of only two Bucknellians to have successfully completed the Cinnamon Challenge blah blah blah. In the real world, you will quickly realize how many people you are competing with in the job market can match your experience & accolades point-for-point, or — more likely than not — how often you will feel so utterly unqualified for any position / life dream you may pursue. At times like these, it is so easy to get down on yourself and fall victim to self-deprecation, but resist the urge. Unless it’s for comedic effect (meaning: you don’t really mean it), putting yourself down is only going to make things seem a lot worse. Positivity is contagious, and you’ll be amazed how keeping a positive outlook on your prospects will carry you through the hard times. Also: no one wants to hang out with a Debbie Downer, even if they’re Negatives Nancy themselves.
Fourth, remember the good times, but also be thankful for the hard times. Thought you dealt with some idiots during your undergraduate career? You’ll be amazed how irrationality proliferates in certain work & social environments, especially when budget cuts / family issues / general insanity is involved. So when, I dunno, a certain administrator confuses you for another co-worker and starts yelling insults at you and insists you apologize for something you clearly were not responsible for, take a deep breath and recall that one time in freshman year you got yelled at by that crazy girl (you know, the one who repelled out of her second-story dorm room with bedsheets) for something you were also not responsible for, and remember how you handled it. Thank that crazy girl for the life lesson, but preferably without letting her know. She may very well still be crazy.
And, lastly, before you step on stage, shake that seemingly-important hand, and accept your diploma, be sure to take a deep breath. Lewisburg air is beautiful. Your time at Bucknell was beautiful. Remember this as you exhale. Or sigh. Congrats to you, class of 2011!