The gown engulfed me. It was nicer than our gowns in high school – more legitimate and regal. Just as I felt. I stood to address the small crowd – we were each told to say a few words of gratitude, perhaps share a memory or two. I felt put together and at ease standing at the podium. I thanked my mentors and professors, the academic program, and my peers. I looked at my parents, preparing to graciously thank them for their support and love. I couldn’t muster a word. My throat swelled, my eyes flooded, and the gravity of the day hit me harder than a freight train. This graduating a year early thing was no longer an idea or penciled in plan – it was real. It is real. Standing in front of strangers I squeaked, “I’m going to cry,” and between hiccups and timid sobs I looked my teary eyed parents in the eye and said, “without your support I would have never gotten my dream job.” And then I cried.

It’s surreal. Realizing that three years of being engulfed in this culture and environment that we call college is suddenly over. Twenty minutes before commencement I was constantly refreshing my health economics page to check my final exam grade. Now I’m being handed certificates and diplomas; I’m being asked to address my peers and make small talk with the university president. When did this happen? How am I supposed to instantly go from student to alumna, from Birkenstock and oversized bro tank wearing college kid to pencil skirt and heel clad adult? Can everyone else tell that I’m faking it? Because getting ready for work still feels like playing dress-up and sitting at a desk with my name placard feels like playing school. Perhaps we’re all faking it. Let’s all just fake it ‘till we make it, shall we?

At the end of my freshmen year I wrote a “Year in Review,” with some of the lessons I learned that year. As I embark on this next chapter of my life, I thought I’d share some of the lessons and practices I learned throughout my time in college. Some are introspective, others are logistical; all have led me to this moment of rubbing my feet after wearing heels working all day.

  1. Always make the bed.
  2. Don’t date freshmen boys.
  3. People have to earn the right to see you under the influence.
  4. Have a bedtime routine.
  5. Control the controllables.
  6. I am not the center of anyone’s universe but my own.
  7. Seek inspiration and happiness. Not accolades.
  8. Plan everything in pencil.
  9. When in doubt, go for a run.
  10. Read books outside of class.
  11. Watch documentaries.
  12. Journal.
  13. Laugh at yourself multiple times daily.
  14. Call your parents.
  15. Take notes with real pen and paper, not the computer.
  16. Self-care is nonnegotiable.
  17. Complete assignments at least 24 hours in advance.
  18. Dwell in positivity and cleanse your life of all the things that berate you.
  19. Ask the question.
  20. Apply for your dream job(s).
  21. Pray when everything is going right.
  22. Pray when everything is going wrong.
  23. Do yoga.
  24. Give yourself permission to switch directions, shift priorities, and change passions.
  25. Keep dark chocolate on hand at all times.
  26. Get a hard drive and back up your computer.
  27. Eat what you crave.
  28. Always carry a water bottle.
  29. Listen to everyone, follow no one.
  30. Use a calendar.
  31. Crying is not a shameful act.
  32. Embrace and own your mistakes.
  33. No one actually knows what they’re doing.
  34. Interview your future self. It answers a lot of questions.
  35. Own a lumpy Christmas sweater.
  36. Say no. Embrace and respect your limits.
  37. Learn how to cook chicken well.
  38. Embrace who you are today. Don’t compare yourself with your past self, future plans, or peers. You are the only you in this present moment – and that is more than enough.
  39. Relish the butterflies – it means you care.
  40. Count your blessings in the bad, hard, and disappointing seasons of life.
  41. Wear whatever the hell you want. Wear what empowers you.
  42. Sit at the table.
  43. When doubting yourself ask, why not me?
  44. Remember: The worst they can do is say “no,” which actually isn’t that bad.

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