It’s that time of year here at Mason. Lots A and L fill up. Parents, family and friends pile into Eagle Bank Arena and the Center for Fine Arts, and Fairfax campus is looking polished for pictures.
It’s graduation season.
As you’re trying on your cap and gown and figuring out your most clever captions for the graduation photos you’ll be posting on Instagram, there may be an overwhelming thought running through your head. “What am I going to do when all of this is over?"
Well, I’ve found there are a few steps in answering that question.
1 - Remind yourself how far you’ve come.
Think back to your first semester at Mason. Didn’t this all seem intimidating? As you were trying to figure out why you thought it was a good idea to take that 8 AM class or when you got lost trying to find the study room you reserved in Fenwick, did you ever think you’d get here? Let’s fast-forward a bit. How about those late nights working on that research project you’d present at the Undergraduate Research Symposium? It turned out just fine, didn’t it?
As I was listening to the student speaker, Dan McGovern, at the School of Integrative Studies’ (SIS) Degree Celebration, one quote in particular stuck out: “I hadn’t taken college seriously. It wasn’t until I realized that by me sitting back and wasting time, that I was being an accomplice to the ongoing problems in the world.” Perhaps that was you a few years ago. You were passive, trying to figure things out, and perfectly content with the world passing you by. But, not anymore. Somehow, despite the struggles, you figured it out. You did the most you could to make an impact on your community. You found the best way to make it to the end of this journey in your life and the finish line is right in front of you.
2 - Celebrate!
Don’t look now, but you’ve made it! All that hard work paid off. Thank your family for supporting you and your friends for reassuring you, because no one gets this far by themselves. Most of all, be proud of yourself and the work you put in to get here. This is a special moment in your life that you’ll always be able to look back on and cherish. This is YOUR time, so try your best to enjoy it.
3 - Embrace change.
Things are going to be different from now on. This is the hard truth that’s always difficult to face when leaving a place that’s been home for a few years. Perhaps you haven’t found out about that job you interviewed for, or that graduate degree program you applied to. Maybe you’re nervous about how that entry level position you have lined up is going to help you pay back those student loans. After years with Mason, in what became a comfort zone, you’re going back out into a new world. And you’re asking yourself, “how am I going to face the inevitable changes and struggles that are headed my way?”
I’m reminded of what Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, CEO and President of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said repeatedly as she gave her address during the SIS Degree Celebration: “Struggle is the cloth from which change is sewn.”
Yes, things will be different. The chances of you facing tough challenges as you take the next step in your life are high. But, remember, those struggles are necessary to bring great change to your life and the lives of those around you. When you’re faced with that change, embrace it, and remember that you can choose to make it for the better.
Again, remember how far you’ve come to get here. Thank those who have stood beside you and supported you. Celebrate. You’ve earned it. Congratulations, graduates. We can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.
May 16, 2019