A Letter to Recent Graduates

Abigail Guidera works in the office of the president at the American Enterprise Institute and is a previous AEI Executive Council member at Wheaton College.

If your graduation is looming, or you just became a recent graduate, I wanted to pen some reflections, advice, and words of encouragement to send your way in hopes that you will ease into this adult world with far greater grace than I.

Last May, I was ready to step away from Wheaton College in order to experience life outside of academia. I knew that I loved school, but I was not yet confident that a life in books was my true vocation. So, I stepped—or rather launched—halfway across the country, away from the family I love and the community I had come to adore at Wheaton.

What has occurred since can only be summed up as a wild ride – affirming that I live at the whims of my Father. His plans for me continue to blow my understanding of His goodness out of the water. So whether you are looking ahead to either complete uncertainty or job security–chin-up: the best is yet to come.

Be prepared to manage relationships, new and old. Please do not forget those from your past—the value of the support and wisdom sent from afar is immeasurable, and it is a gift to share in diverse experiences with those who were once next-door neighbors. Looking ahead, you will encounter many new people in the coming year, but I caution you to acknowledge your bandwidth. Time becomes precious when you spend nine to ten hours a day at a desk, and your freedom to maintain high quantities of friendships is not what you have experienced in the past four years. Opportunity is no longer constrained within the bounds of a college campus, friendships are no longer limited to fellow twenty-somethings, and the commitments of our lives are not planned from the pages of the course packet. It’s an often heard phrase, but the very fact substantiates the truth it holds: quality over quantity.

Embrace total honesty. There is a resistance to transparency in relationships, but what good will come from sugarcoating the truth? A stranger on the bus once asked me if I had ever been in love, a question which prompted a lengthy conversation about his current relational predicament. I have not seen him since, but it was a privilege to hear him share his struggles without hesitation. We learned from one another and parted ways, and while I can’t recall his name, the conversation will stay with me for years to come. Trusting someone with your truth is the best way to remember that we all face troubles and can walk through them together.

Open your world to spontaneity (shocking words to come from a type-A introvert). Accept the last-minute invitation, put off the growing pile of laundry for an adventure with a friend. But all the while, be wary of how often you allow others to make decisions on your behalf. It’s easy to say ‘yes’ to the suggestions offered by new faces when you’re searching for community, even when the activity is not one you would have envisioned partaking in six months earlier. In sum–be willing to participate in the unexpected, but the unexpected cannot trump your moral and ethical convictions.

Finally, look forward with excitement and anticipation – but do not forget the value of looking back! You’ll realize that for the first time, there is no foreseeable end date, no term paper to finish, no semester ahead for which to prepare. You are entering a stage of life that offers such freedom, which is both wonderful and overwhelming because we so often try to plan ahead. It is perfectly acceptable to just be. Thrive where you are, throw smiles at strangers on the street, and befriend coworkers at the coffee cart. Embrace your new place, and do not be afraid to plant roots. Take time to reflect on what you have learned. History, whether ancient or our own, is an invaluable tool that is both instructive and humbling as you live through these rapidly changing times. While this first stop after college may be a short visit or a lifetime residency, there are always people to love and serve, new sights to see, and great books to read. Never lose a sense of wonderment – it gives life color, and it makes the world fresh every morning. There will be hard days and joyful days, you’ll cry, work hard, and drink too much coffee. Yet at the end of each day, God is still good, and you’ll always have an old friend to write a note to about your new experiences.

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