Having the flu (or the mysterious 2012 bug) on and off for three weeks sure can slow you down. After taking another day off on Monday because I had a wave this odd sickness, I ventured out to the pharmacy on foot for a prescription. I figured the exercise might break me out of my mental rut, if not boost my immune system a little bit before work tonight. Lucky for me, the weather held a beautiful equilibrium all day: that place between a thunderstorm and a cool spring day with just enough warm wind to make you want to stay outside even if it starts raining. Also lucky for me, mid-afternoon on a Tuesday in Astoria is the perfect place to be when you can’t walk very quickly. Most people out and about are over the age of 70 and don’t want to be hurried either. I wasn’t moving any faster than they were because of health.
Walking this slowly was such a blessing. First of all, my slow pace made me notice a lot of other people who were taking their time. For example, I saw two old men on lawn chairs sitting near a large bump in the road yelling “Ohhhhhh” every time a car went by and bottomed out. Gotta have a pastime. They reminded me a lot of the two old men from the Muppets.
I also suddenly noticed this incredible nostalgia connected to the time of year.. This inaccessible area of Astoria (at least by public transportation) has enough trees to make it appear as a peaceful suburb. The trees recently went from bare to fully dressed in green practically overnight, without the chance for anyone to notice. One day, BAM, spring. “Did you see us do that? No! we are very very sneaky.” These are the trees speaking. In my head, in a French accent. Not sure why.
It was noticing the trees that made me realize where this nostalgia was coming from. This time of year reminds me of graduating from Drew three years ago. I’ve seen a lot of people over the last few days posting on Facebook that they are done with college. One of which was my prospective student when I was a senior. So when this class leaves, I no longer went to school with anyone at Drew. It’s nice to notice that this freaks me out less and less with every year, as I think it should be. But it didn’t keep me from realizing how long it took me to fully slow down for a minute since college.
I also noticed with extreme pride how far not only I have come, but also the people who graduated around my time. The day I graduated, the thing that upset me most was the idea that I would lose contact with all of the people I loved. Everything seemed so final and uncertain at the same time. And three years later, here I am in NYC with almost all of the people I was scared of losing either a subway, short car ride, or Bolt Bus trip away. I have watched friends from college travel the world, traveled with some of these people myself, design on Broadway, go through grad school, get married, move across the country, or redefine themselves. I’ve rebuilt relationships that were a disaster at the end of 2009. I’m even dating and living with a Drew Alum. Granted, we met in a bar and never at Drew, but a lot of Drew alums helped that happen. So Drew will not leave you, whether you like it or not. It’s pretty wild actually. And it’s only been three years.
Now on to my advice for graduates:
1. Take a Nap!
If I can say anything to the graduates from Drew or elsewhere of this year: it’s that things can slow down. I promise. My out of school panic originated from not knowing what to do with all my energy. Since elementary school there has been the immediate expectation to “keep up.” Yes, we want to continue pursuing our goals, but now it is essentially in your hands, without anyone telling you that something is due other than yourself. So really, let yourself decompress. Even if you’re off to grad school soon. The day of graduation, I face planted on my bed at home and woke up the next morning in the same clothes next to my stuffed lamb, jazz lamb, and to many texts from nostalgic friends.
2. Travel, even a little
If you find yourself in a position with some money from graduation gifts or awards, and are at all on the fence about whether to save or travel, come chat with me. I may not give you practical advice, but I strongly believe in taking advantage of the desire to get moving when you can. The beauty of having no career yet is you have no excuse to stick around.
How many years has it been since you’ve had time to read for pleasure? Especially if you have to relocate immediately after college, getting a library card in your new town can not only make you feel at home, but also give you a free beautiful distraction. You can study whatever you want! With no grades!
4. Learn to Cook
There is no greater sense of accomplishment than making something edible for the first time. Buy your favorite ingredients, throw them in a pan with oil, take a picture, post on facebook, eat, and feel proud. If you’re broke or scared of cooking, three words: Rice and Beans.
They say it takes 7 years after an experience to fully process and write it down, so if you have a lot of funky feelings about college you aren’t ready to tackle yet, write about something else. This helped me immensely, and still does. First off, it helped fulfill me creatively when I wasn’t cast in anything for a long time. Also, it filled that over-achieving student in me that enjoyed filling an empty word document with words.
So though I could go on and on (even more) about how everything is going to be okay after college, I won’t. But my door is always open. Instead, please just trust that though leaving the bubble of college is heartbreaking, the bubble of the “real world” is even more wonderful. There is so much to look forward to. And I hope you can look back in a few years and have the great realization I’ve had.