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VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES | Essay

Some Post-Graduation Life Lessons

May 29, 1999|KAREN-ALICIA ROBERTSON | Karen-Alicia Robertson is the public relations manager at Jewish Vocational Service and a docent at the Petersen Automotive Museum

My 10-year college reunion invitation arrived in the mail recently. After recovering from the shock at how quickly those 10 years had rolled by, I thought about how much I learned--not in college but in the years that came after graduation. What my mother didn't tell me about life after college, I had to learn the hard way.

Like the graduates who will be beaming with pride this June, I thought I should know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't. This bothered me. As a college graduate, I was supposed to be smart. Therefore I should have all the answers, I thought. What a ridiculous notion this was.

I tell friends graduating today, don't expect to know what you want in a career, home, spouse, friends or even a pet. Take risks and expose yourself to as many new experiences as possible. You may just stumble into something that changes your life. One day I was visiting a church where they needed a volunteer to help with a Sunday school lesson. Since that day seven years ago, I have been passionate about youth and educational programs.

In taking risks, there is the possibility you may fail. So what? You often can learn more from failure than success. You can learn what you don't enjoy and get insight into what you do. The key, however, is to take the time and reflect about the event and treat it as a growing experience.

One of the safest and easiest risks to take is to do volunteer work. You will have a chance to experience a different work culture, meet new people and learn about noteworthy causes. And, you will feel better about yourself and the world we live in. Surround yourself with people you can respect and admire. One of the most critical choices I made in my 20s was my choice of friends. The people you surround yourself with reflect the standard you have set for yourself. Is it high enough? Are you on the same road? Do you have the same values and priorities?

Take time to think about your values. You will be happier if you allow your values help shape your decisions about your career, home and spouse.

Most of all, be patient with yourself. The first five years out of college are very difficult. How much you learn during this time will be the key to your success.

If you are like me, you will be much happier with your life at the time of your 10-year college reunion than at the time of your college graduation.

Perhaps the reunion is the real graduation.

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