A couple weeks ago, I was asked to travel back to my alma mater at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. My former professor and academic adviser had asked several of us to serve on an alumni panel to discuss college opportunities and career advice to undergraduate students pursuing degrees in agricultural communications and marketing.
I kind of had to laugh to myself; anyone who knows me knows I'm not usually the most profound person in the room and, as I'm still fairly new to the real world, as college students often refer to it, I didn't know what particular advice I could give.
Despite this notion about myself, I began to realize that in the last year since college graduation, there are a few life lessons I have picked up on. As I made my drive up to St. Paul, I got to thinking of all the things I've learned over the course of the last year.
First and foremost, I learned that living alone isn't the scariest thing that can happen to a person. Although I grew up in a house full of siblings and lived in a sorority with 20-some college women for the last four years, I learned there is something to be said about the solitude in living alone. Despite my upbeat, social attitude, coming home to a quiet house and having my own sense of sole freedom certainly has had its perks.
Second, I learned that I wasn't always going to have all the answers. Growing up, I always had a shoulder to lean on when it came to my parents, siblings or friends. In college, I was always in close quarters with someone who could help me out. I quickly realized being completely on my own, however, there is nothing wrong with seeking out help when it's needed. That's the great thing about a community: whether its family or friends or even just an acquaintance, help is always there when you ask for it.
Next, I realized the importance of relationships. Not every single person I saw on a daily basis in college was going to be in contact with me every day anymore - and that was OK. Afternoon phone calls and weekend visits from close friends have grown to mean so much more. Making a long drive to meet up for dinner or gathering in a tiny apartment to celebrate the holidays have so much more value when you haven't seen one another for a while. The phrase absence makes the heart grow fonder certainly rings true after graduation.
Finally, I learned the window of opportunity doesn't close after you receive your diploma, but rather flies wide open. I learned to allocate my time to things that really mattered to me: hobbies, community service and social organizations gained a larger precedence in my life. Not every opportunity always swung in my favor, but the next opportunity was usually around the corner if I went looking hard enough.
As I met with the aforementioned group of students, reconnected with old friends and conversed with my former advisor, I came to the conclusion that there is no cookie cutter lifestyle after graduating from college. No matter what job a student takes or goal they set next, all that matters is that they face it head on with a small dose of confidence. There's going to be just as many successes as there are trials - it's simply all a part of the lifelong learning experience.