Honestly, I’ve been pretty down the past few weeks. Last Sunday I officially graduated from college, but things don’t look at all like I imagined they would. I don’t have that dream first job lined up yet and even worse, I didn’t get to walk across the stage in my Carolina blue cap and gown, celebrating my accomplishments with my friends and family. But recently, something cheered me up and gave me a glimmer of hope that everything might just turn out alright.
In my last few weeks of high school, I wrote a letter to myself to open when I graduated college. It’s been sitting on my desk for the past few weeks collecting dust and taunting me. I was terrified to open it because frankly, I thought it’d make me feel like a failure. I figured my high school self would’ve laid out all of these predictions and questions of what post-grad life was like and I’d be reading it as a now unemployed graduate with little to say about the so-called ‘real world’.
I finally mustered up the courage to open the letter Sunday night and it brought me to tears almost instantly, but not for the reasons I thought it would.
The letter took me back to a place not all that different than the one I’m in right now – pure uncertainty. I started by venting about my stressful journey to commit to UNC. I still wasn’t entirely convinced I had made the right decision. I literally wrote “Congrats on graduating from college – hopefully from UNC…”, meaning I wasn’t even confident that I would survive the four years without transferring. At that moment, I had no idea just how incredible of a decision I had made.
High school wasn’t super fun for me. I spent most of my free time at my dance studio, meaning I had few close friends at school when it came time for lunch, picking partners in class, or even a group to go to prom with. I had high expectations that college would be a fresh start but deep down I was scared it would just be a high school 2.0.
It’s funny that I feared college not meeting my expectations because looking back, I didn’t even have the capacity to understand how good UNC would be for me in so many ways. From the friendships to the experiences to the individual growth, I had no idea what was in store for my future.
I had a severe case of imposter syndrome. I wrote about worries of not being able to study or read my textbooks. I now remember those thoughts clear as anything. I did good in high school, but I wasn’t completely confident I was UNC material. It was certainly hard to adapt to the high expectations here – it’s admittedly a much different pace than my AP coursework. But I learned to make the most of my slow reading skills and consistently made the Dean’s List to show for it.
In one way, it feels like I wrote the letter yesterday. Reading it brought me back to the exact classroom I sat in while I doodled in the margins and counted down the seconds until high school graduation. At the same time, this 2016 version of myself feels like an entirely different person that must’ve come from a different life.
College survival tip #18: Embrace the unknown. Uncharted waters are scary, and they never seem to get easier – but they do make you stronger in the long run.
There’s one sentence I wrote in closing my letter that hit me the hardest: “I really wish you could tell me everything’s gonna be okay because I’m so afraid”. As I attempt to search for a job in the midst of a pandemic, that sentence perfectly embodies my current state.
But for my high school self, everything turned out more than okay. College didn’t go exactly how I envisioned, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I experienced so many amazing things that I couldn’t even fathom at the time.
So now, while I can’t go back and tell my former self that everything will be okay, I’ll tell it to my current self. I don’t know that for a fact but I’ve got a feeling things will work out, even if I am feeling a little lost right now.