I am excited to be visiting Washington, D.C. and to be back at my alma mater, American University today. It has been three years since I have been on campus, and six years this month since I graduated. Sometimes I’m struck by how much time has gone by since taking the stage that May day in 2009 and accepting my diploma, and other times it has felt like just yesterday I was packing up my first apartment and closing the chapter on my college years. Either way time has passed and a lot has happened in my life. I remember entering college as an equestrian, concerned with how I would juggle my schoolwork and my riding. Then two years later, having to adapt to leaving Long Island and making new friends as I transferred to American. And finally, transitioning into the real world as a college graduate and landing my first job.
Fast-forward six years and I am not the lawyer I thought I would be, or the girl with the masters degree teaching political science classes. It has taken me six years to realize who I am and who I am still becoming. Some lessons have come to me through setbacks with my health and in losing a good friend, while others have been a more natural progression. I am grateful for what time has taught me…things I could never have learned in the classroom. Today, as I reflect on those four wonderful years, and where I stand at the six-year mark, I thought I would share some of the lessons I’ve learned so far on my journey.
Be kinder than necessary…for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. As someone left with an invisible illness after thyroid cancer (that would be you, hypothyroidism!), I know firsthand how hard some days can be for me. I endure a consistent state of exhaustion, and while my day must go on, it’s the little things that people do or say that I remember most. The sweet text from a colleague inquiring as to whether I would like Starbucks, the phone call from a friend that I’ve lost touch with, or just an acquaintance asking how I am feeling. Taking a few seconds each day to check in with the people around you can make a difference in someone’s day.
This too shall pass. Nothing is really permanent and change can be lurking just around the corner. So on those days where you answer one email and ten come to its funeral (almost everyday, for me), you find yourself running between meetings instead of outside, and breakfast and dinner meals are one-in-the-same, take a deep breath and remind yourself that soon the craziness will end and it will be a distant memory.
Say what you mean…and mean what you say. How often have you wanted to say something to a friend or co-worker, but let the moment pass? This happens to me often where I feel I should’ve offered someone a “congratulations,” or let them know how much I appreciate all they do. Don’t put off telling someone how you feel, and when you do, make sure it is sincere.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is too short to worry about petty things that won’t matter in five years, and the things that are out of your control. Do the best you can every day, believe in yourself and don’t worry if you make a mistake. You will learn as you go on that setbacks are not the end of the world. They will help you realize that it either wasn’t the right time or a better opportunity will present itself…if you let it.
Illegitimi non carborundum. My good friend who passed away used to remind me of this saying all the time. It’s a mock-Latin phrase which loosely translates to mean “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” I always took it as worry about yourself, stand in your truth and don’t let negative influences interfere. Whenever a situation stresses me out, I always think of her and smile, as I repeat this phrase in my head. I swear, it gives you inner strength!
To all of the 2015 graduates, congratulations on your milestone and best of luck in your future endeavors. Don’t forget to enjoy your graduation day and keep in touch with the people that made your four-year journey rewarding!