Each year, I walk down the aisle in cap and gown, then watch and cheer for the graduating class. As I look out at the sea of young and not-so-young faces, I think about what lies behind and what lies ahead.
Graduation is called commencement—it’s a completing and a beginning. I’ve completed and begun a few times in my life:
- Graduating three times: Bachelors’, Masters’ and PhD
- Completing my single 39 years by beginning a marriage
- Completing my pregnancy with a bright beautiful baby
- . . . and more, but those were the big ones!
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- It’ll be a lot harder than you thought.
You thought going to school was hard, being single was hard, pregnancy was hard, but what lies ahead is even harder! Two weeks after I graduated from college, I signed a contract to teach in South America, and six weeks later, I boarded a plane for my first international trip. Don’t get me wrong—I loved teaching in Paraguay, but still, it was so hard. I can say the same about marriage and mommyhood. There were challenges that I could never have imagined before I began, and many knocked me down to my knees in tears, where I begged God for relief.
So don’t be surprised if it’s harder. Embrace it, remembering that God is for you.
- The rewards are unpredictable but amazing if you persevere and choose to see the positive.
My twenty-one-year-old-first-graduate-dreams would never have included where I am right now. But I am so glad that my plans did not succeed! I planned to marry young, but did not marry until 39; I planned to teach elementary school forever, but now I teach college; I planned to live overseas, but now I live in the USA and have a husband from over-the-sea. . . there’s even more! Though giving up the dreams was never easy, and embracing the reality had its challenges, I can say wholeheartedly that life is good, though not at all as I had pictured it before.
So don’t be surprised if your dreams get shattered. Trust that God has dreams for you that will be even greater.
- You will need your community like never before.
Transitions are hard, partially because they take you to new places that are often lonely (even if you haven’t physically moved). So don’t lose touch with those you love. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for the help that you need, and be ready to be a support for others. Reach out and take risks in your new community and don’t be discouraged when it takes a long time and much effort. Seasons of loneliness come, and they’re not really a terrible thing.
So don’t be surprised when you’re lonely. Wait for the comfort of the One who never leaves you, and reach back and forward to others.
- Embrace your own unique journey with gratefulness.
It’s always a temptation to look at your own life as less than your peers’, especially if your peers are getting what you want while you remain without. But the path that God is taking you on is yours alone. Be grateful for what you had—what you completed, and what you have. God has given you this life to enjoy. Are you enjoying yours?
So, don’t be surprised by your jealousy. Let go of it, write down what you’re grateful for, and keep on the journey.
Graduation is special. Celebrate well, take pictures, and make memories. And if it gets hard and lonely later, look back at those photos and memories, and celebrate again, knowing that this season will be completed, too!
(Interested in hearing more from me? Check out my book, The Book of Womanhood)