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Lessons to My 21-Year-Old College Grad Self

Me on my graduation day in 2004.
Graduation day in 2004.

This May marked 10 years since I graduated from the University of Hartford. I remember it well. It was a beautiful day in Connecticut and my dad was there, proud as ever. I was excited for a lot of things that day. I was excited to wear my graduation gown, and to throw my cap. I was excited to see my friends and share the day together. I was excited to start the next chapter in my life and get a job in New York City. That was my dream.

That day was bittersweet. While all of this excitement surrounded me, I  was also scared and sad. I was leaving my home of four years. I was leaving my friends of four years. I was going out into the big, unknown world where no one knew anything about me. It was a day to celebrate, but it was also a day to say goodbye.

Back in 2004, it wasn’t about if you’d find a job, but when, and how fast. Jobs were prevalent then, even for recent, wide-eyed grads. I remember my friend Shawn already had a job lined up and I wanted that so badly. But I would land a job two weeks later in New York City, and it would be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

A lot has happened in the last 10 years. Both life and career changes have shaped me into the working mom I am today. So what lessons did I learn in the past 10 years that I’d want my 21-year-old self to remember?

  • Don’t be sad. The future is bright and shiny.
  • Be optimistic. Unknowns are not scary, they’re exciting.
  • It’s all about what you make of it. Your mindset sets the playing field.
  • Have confidence. You can do it. You have to believe in yourself if you want anyone else to believe in you.
  • Don’t stress so much. You’ll find that job and make that next move in life. Worrying won’t solve problems.
  • Know you’re not alone. Many, many, many, many people graduate. They find jobs. They begin their lives. You can do it, too.
  • Work hard. Things don’t fall in your lap. You have to earn them. Wake up every day ready to kick butt.
  • Life is hard. Embrace this and it will be an easier pill to swallow. Nothing good comes easily.

What other life lessons would you share?

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