Graduation. It is an event we look forward to from the moment we enter into those scary Pre-K doors. It’s one of the first notions of moving forward that we’ve ever experienced. It is truly and undoubtedly one of the most pivotal and prideful moments of our lives. It’s meritorious regalia, pleasant cheers, and feelings of alleviation are the boost of confidence we need to make it to the next level of life! However, many of us are met with some unknown circumstances that no one briefed us on before we greeted the graduation milestone with relief!
Warning: holding your breath isn’t going to help you navigate what I refer to as the freshman years of the real world.
You’re about to experience a plethora of joys and obstacles that no one could have prepared you for. All of those teenage year’s when you were coaxing your parents into believing you could handle anything are about to reverse. These are the days that will be filled with dramatic deep breaths and calls home to mom, dad, siblings, your dog or whoever will listen. The good part is, you’ll develop prized friendships with whomever you confide in. Your mom just might become your best friend. Mine did!
Life is about to serve you with some of it’s biggest lessons. First off, ingrain in your soul that you can start over at any time. When one thing doesn’t work out according to the textbook plan, remember that history repeats itself. You should have learned this one if you were awake during any of those tedious history classes or war reenactment field trips. That means you get another shot, but try something different the second go around.
I strongly suggest writing your own story. Trust me, other people will already be forming their narratives of what your life is supposed to look like. Don’t let them.
This will be the biggest stone of your real-world foundation that you’ll need to place firmly. You now have to figure out what is best for you! News flash – none of those people telling you who to be friends with, where to live or where to work will likely offer you a million dollar job or a compensation towards paying any of your many bills.
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Do the research on the things you want out of life. You have to be strategic about this brand new wide-open playing field. Nobody told me about taxes varying from state to state. I moved to Louisville, Kentucky from Tennessee to take a job and basically ended up making a lateral salary because of how much tax money was being taken out of my check. Had I known, I would have negotiated a different salary. Other things you’ll want to research include, but are not limited to: number of young professionals within a city, job market, city moral, benefits packages, civic engagement opportunities within a city, technological resources within a city, travel times to and from home (travel expenses can add up, especially during emergencies), life insurance, car insurance, health insurance and my fav – cost of living in a city. You need to figure these things out. You need to understand how your health insurance works with deductibles and out of pocket expenses. You need to understand the differences between a 403(B) and a 401(K). Find out what student loan payoff options are best for your wallet and your job. If you work at a non-profit, you could have your loans forgiven in 10 years. There are all kinds of resources out here to help you through your freshman year(s) of life. You have to look for them. The best ones will be hidden. You may even have to call customer service and sit on the phone and wait to talk to the right person. Before you get overwhelmed with all of this information, remember to embrace your deep breaths. It’ll be okay.
Save money, but don’t forget to live. Two things that help me survive the real world are my money and my mantra. I don’t mind working hard for the things I want. In fact, if something is beyond my reach, I may find another way to collect additional funds to pay for it! We live in a time where the side hustle is being fully embraced. If you plant flowers for a living, find a neighborhood and get started. Build your social media pages on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Build out your website and start taking on clients during the weekend or whenever. Remember, where there is a will, there is a way!
Graduates, you have now been charged with messing some stuff up and figuring them out the best way you know how. Essentially, you’ve been charged with living your best life. You won’t have all the tools at once, but you gather them in your shed as time goes on. Weed out all the doubts and bloom wherever you are planted because that’s the only way you’re gonna survive out here!
Here is one of my all-time favorite commencement speeches! Kerry Washington delivers a riveting speech that will give anyone the inspiration to make things happen for themselves. Now, is your time and you won’t get it back so use it wisely.