“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”- 2 Timothy 4:7
I remember the first day of freshman year like it was yesterday. And frankly, most of the time it feels like it was. I was a totally out of my element 18 year old who had short hair, a Tommy Hilfiger striped shirt, and baggy shorts from the recent weight I had just lost from a mission trip to Haiti. I had no friends, no idea what the heck I was doing, and was terrified I was going to completely fail out and have to transfer. And yet, I remember being so utterly excited as I walked into the cramped triple that was going to be my future home for the next 9 months. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I was very excited to start.
Now as I prepare to spend my last day on the Grove City College Campus, I am left with very similar feelings. Being excited, yet terrified, as I look to begin a new chapter in my life. For many of us( myself included), that means moving away from our homes, it might mean going home in the hopes of finding a future, it might mean starting a graduate school. Either way, we all have one thing in common. We all have to pick up our feet and begin a new journey.
Without getting too sentimental, I can easily say that Grove City College has been the best four years of my life so far. I am not saying (hoping) they will be the best four years I have ever had, but for a girl who went to a pretty red neck high school it was practically paradise. It was a dream come true to walk onto a college campus where people also dressed preppy, loved the Lord with all their hearts, and would actually compliment me. Looking back, it makes me so sad to realize I went so long without the amazing friends I have discovered in college. I have met friends who have been with me through some of the toughest times of my life and helped me to weather the storm. Friends who one second are making an inappropriate joke, but then teaching me and encouraging me in Christ the next.
And I know that right now can seem like only an ending and not a beginning. Because if you don’t have a job or a plan for after graduation, it can be really intimidating to move back in with mom and dad and seemingly lose your freedom overnight. But I know from experience that we all have to start somewhere. In the very famous verse from Ecclesiastes, one of the times God describes is a
“A time to build and a time to uproot. A time to scatter stones and time to gather them.”
Currently, we are all in the “being uprooted and yet to be planted” stage. And it can be terrifying to be uprooted. To leave the nice cozy dirt of college and classes and homework and friendships. To leave napping, and late night Sheetz runs, and comfortable surroundings. To be yanked out without wanting to be planted somewhere else. But fortunately, we’ve done it before. Obviously moving from high school to college is not as big a transition as blazing our way to the real world, but it is a similar time of transition. Remember how scared you were to not make any friends, or what if you couldn’t handle the class load, or the food made you sick? You wondered what if you didn’t make the cut and high school was your peak time? Fortunately, it only took a little bit of time for us at college to get adjusted to the class loads and to make new amazing friends. We were uprooted, but we were planted and able to flourish.
So what advice would I give to myself and other graduating seniors? Of course, I don’t come close to having any answers, but I hope that some of these tips can help both of us.
“ You who are young be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.” – Ecclesiastes 11:9
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”- 1 Timothy 4:12
To not forget the people and places that have shaped you for the last four years. Now I am not advising you carry around a tub of ice cream, only wear your Greek shirts out in public, or to constantly be reminiscing about the “good old days,” but to not forget the lessons you worked so hard to learn in college. To not forget about the friendships you have forged, and realize that any relationship can work if you are willing to put in the effort. Yes, instead of having sleepovers in your dorm rooms you might have to settle for monthly or every couple of month trips, but your foundation is already there. Don’t allow it to crumble if it’s important to you.
Don’t forget to stop learning. Even if you aren’t in a graduate school, continue to learn from the people, places, and colleagues around you. Everyone has something to teach us if we are willing and able to listen.
Don’t forget to stop dreaming. College isn’t where the road ends. God has big plans for us and how He wants us to impact those around us. Don’t miss out on His quiet whisper for your heart because you are too hung up on the past. Don’t think that just because we are young and inexperienced that we can’t contribute well to society. These years after college is the time to explore new cities, travel, take jobs that we love that don’t pay us super well, get our dream degrees, start our own businesses, and meet anyone and everyone. Now I am not saying to chase a dream that is utterly unrealistic. I don’t want anyone to tell their parents they are going to move to Thailand and pursue their dream of being a surfer just because they read this post. But don’t let satan trick you either. Don’t let him make you think that you aren’t able to accomplish the plans God has placed on your heart and prepared you to do.
Make New Friends
“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9
I love the saying make new friends but keep the old. Don’t be a hermit in the place you end up after graduation. Do things that will purposely get you to interact with new people. Join a Bible study or young adult group, interact with young people at your workplace, talk to those kids you sit by in your grad classes, enroll in a class at the gym, or even get a cup of coffee at a place inhabited by young people. There are so many amazing and wonderful friends that we have yet to meet. There are going to be new people we encounter who we are going to question how they haven’t been in our lives longer. So, don’t ditch the college friends who have made you who you are, but don’t confuse fear with loyalty. Get out there and make some friends.
Rely on God and Other People
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”- Romans 8:28
I am blessed to still keep in contact with some of my friends from college who have already graduated. And I know from them that the real world is not very easy. It is a hard transition. Going from an easy final semester of senior year, straight into a 9 to 5 job that requires skills you are still harnessing, is going to be tough. We need to expect it to be tough. But, we know from watching others, that just because it is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t doable. Listen, if you can make it through Grove City College, you can make it through practically anything. Just remember when you feel out of place that you are equipped for that job, that test, that interview. God is there. God is willing to give us the skills we need to succeed. He is working for the good of us. He will not forsake us or let us down. So we need to rely on Him. He is the only constant that has been with us through all our transitions. He knew the people we needed to meet at college, He knew the professors we needed to learn from, He knew the experiences and lessons we needed to have. So He knows the job we need to take, He knows who our new friends will be, He knows the right church where we can serve and be refreshed. So, instead of throwing ourselves pity parties when things get tough, we need to be striving to ask Him what He wants for us.
And likewise, don’t be afraid to rely on the people you love. To call your mom up when you have no idea how to make her favorite recipe or turn on the stove, to call up your best friend when you just want to hear her voice, to be able to be broken and vulnerable with other college graduates about what you are going through. To know that you are not alone, so you don’t have to act like you have it all together.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”- Ephesians 2:10
Anticipate the messiness of post-grad life. We are going to fail, because we are imperfect people with imperfect lives. Yes, it’s not going to be as easy as college, also you can’t nap at your job, but there are still many benefits. Like being able to decorate your first apartment, finding your own church, having money to actually go out to eat, not having to study or write papers, finally being able to read again, the peace of not being stressed out, Sabbaths, bars that don’t just serve you in plastic cups, and no more greasy college food.
Yes, college changed you hopefully for the better, but other things and people will change you just as much. We have a new journey to begin and a new path to take. We will not be alone, and luckily our guide knows where all the potholes, ditches, and poison ivy will be. Life will get hard, but when has it been easy? The most important lesson I have for this post is to just trust in God and meditate on His promises. Don’t let not being around a Christian community of encouragers stop you from pursuing Him and witnessing to others out.
Literally, in two short days, I will walk across a stage, hopefully not be sniped, and proudly be able to say I am a graduate of Grove City College. I’m not an English major, but it truly was the best of times and the worst of times. But I am glad for every moment all the same. So take these next couple of days and weeks to mourn your college experience and all the emotions that go with that. But, eventually, we are all going to have to take that tentative step into adulthood. In the fine words of Dr. Seuss,
“ You’re off to great places, today if your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.”