With Spring, comes changes. Most people recognize these changes in the budding growth of the plants near your home or office, a rise in air-borne pollen (and the sneezing that comes with it), and – for those of us in Syracuse – the return of that bright yellow thing in the sky known to others as the sun. In the academic environs, Spring brings about a new kind of change for those fortunate enough to be graduating. Standing on the edge of graduation can be a perplexing experience. On one hand, you are excited for the freedoms and liberties about to be afforded you by “the real world.” On the other hand, these freedoms and liberties come with challenges and responsibilities that can absolutely paralyze you.
For those about to take this leap, I offer some advice about transitions.
Take the Leap
Transitioning to the real world is a lot like any other adrenaline-filled extreme sport. Yes, there is risk of failure and injury. But, the rewards for those who can successfully navigate the obstacle course are in for the literal ride of a lifetime. Don’t let the possibility of complications prevent you from experiencing those things that your education has prepared you for. You’re ready – and you can handle problems as they arise. It’s useless to worry about something that you cannot control, and may not even happen.
Now, I’m not saying don’t plan for things, or live recklessly. It’s okay to have a contingency plan, or to hedge your bets, but keep moving forward. This journey is like driving something without power steering – it’s easier to manipulate the course while you’re moving forward than to crank on the wheel when you’re at a stand-still.
Maintain health insurance, whatever you do. Most young adults can purchase catastrophic insurance (with a $5,000 deductible) for very reasonable rates. You can even do it online, with no appointment, and print your insurance card right there. This can get you over the transition, and while $5,000 may sound like a lot, believe me, it’s much less than your actual catastrophic medical bill would be.
Transitions As Growth
Think of transitions as a time to grow beyond your current situation. I know that where you’re at is familiar, and comfortable. It would be easy to continue doing what you’re doing, what you’ve been doing, for the foreseeable future. Don’t fall into that trap. Transitions move you forward, allowing you to both leverage the experiences you’ve gained in your current position, and to capture new ones through your future adventures. The only way to fully realize these lessons, and to fully utilize the lessons already learned, is in a new situation.
Transitions allow us the unique opportunity to take those good things we’ve learned, and leave those that are less effective.
These evaluations can be both mental and physical. For example – if your transition involves a physical relocation, take this opportunity to survey the “stuff” in your life. Do you still wear that sweatshirt from high school with your last name on it? If you do – great. If you haven’t worn it since your last graduation, maybe it’s time to get rid of it.
Find something you forgot you had? I don’t care how cool you think it is – get rid of it. If something is not an active part of your life, it’s time for that thing to go. Light travelers reach the furthest, the fastest.
The same lessons apply to mental “stuff,” as well. Do you find yourself stuck in a rut of wanting to go to the gym, but not being able to? Use the fresh energy of a new location to motivate you to get out there. Join a running club, find a new gym in your new neighborhood, get a new partner who will keep you on track. The “I’m new here.” line works great on gym partners and dance partners alike.
Not Your First, Won’t Be Your Last
If you find yourself truly worried – think about this: you’ve already done several major transitions, and you’ll have several more ahead of you. And were they that bad? Probably not.
Remember when you left home for college? That was probably a little intimidating, but it worked out.
Think back to your first day at an internship, on a team, or at a job. It’s always hard at the outset, but it gets easier every day.
You have many more transitions ahead of you in life – our generation will have more jobs than those before us, in more locations and more industries than any other group of workers in human history. This will mean moving, learning, and transitioning in the future.
Learn to leverage transitions, view them as a positive opportunity for reflection and growth, and strive to become a better person with each transition.
Good luck to the Graduating Class of 2010 – here’s to many smooth transitions!