Friends of mine are graduating college from SPU and otherwise this year, and while more friends graduated last year this is the first time that I’ve really felt like I might have something to say on the subject that is helpful.
First of all, I’d like to note that my experience post-graduation is not the typical one, and moreover the idea of a “typical” post college experience doesn’t seem to be a very convincing concept. Let’s just say that what seems to be standard about it is the disorientation one experiences.
When I was about to graduate I had ideas. I had ideas about what I wanted to do, what my goals were and should be, and knew that above all what college graduate needs is a job. You might say I had lots of certainty.
Well, I prayed for a job. A couple weeks before I graduated I got accepted to an AmeriCorps position. Shortly thereafter I was assigned to a minimum security detention center as a teacher’s aide to detained hispanic youth. I got what I asked for, but other things came too.
The job that had originally struck me as “my dreams/hopes/skills meet God’s plan/the world’s need in an awesome/fun/fulfilling way” was not all that I had expected. 11 months of taking verbal and emotional abuse from detained youth wears a man down. I did good things, I worked with some great youth and people on staff, but in general I finished my job feeling the most tired I’ve ever been. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted.
SPU has a strange sense of “sexy” regarding post college activities. In my time there I noted a vague sense of the ideal being the job that puts you in a new city, a new country, a new place, doing something so different and new from anything you’ve ever done before. Serving the Kingdom in extreme ways = sexier than serving in “standard” ways. There was an element of which my job gave me that small ego boost, but only for about a month. I quickly found that social service jobs are not shiny and glamorous. It takes a large toll on a person to work with at-risk populations. The sense of shiny participation in the Lord’s work that I guess I subconsciously felt would come along with doing something worthwhile…never did. I actually ended up feeling frustrated, despairing, and felt like I just barely survived most days after work. It turns out that getting your ass-kicked doing still feels like getting your ass-kicked.
I didn’t get what was going on. God and I had many a conversation in which I told Him (bluntly) how I felt about my scenario. I’d prayed for a job. What came was not what I had meant when I was praying. I didn’t expect to get thrashed. Just what was He up to? Didn’t He care that I felt lonely and exhausted? Is this what I should expect when I pray “Thy will be done” in the Lord’s prayer?
These feelings don’t conveniently go away. It takes time to process through them. For me, it took a 2 month journey to Europe (which you can read about on the blog) and a 2 month job search post-Europe, and some new adventures along the way to come to the following points that perhaps might be useful to those of y’all on the way to graduation from college.
1) You should be prepared to leave certainty behind you on the journey. Quite frankly, the certainty I found myself with as I graduated was not faith. It was not equivalent to trusting God. It would seem that God wants you to trust Him, no matter what. No matter if it sucks. No matter if you hate it. No matter the outcome. Sometimes that’s absurdly hard. Certainty is not going to help you. You just don’t know what He’s up to in your life.
2) Sometimes you just have to choose. Life doesn’t come ready-made with convenient flags marking God’s will for your life. Obviously I don’t think God wants you to be a drug dealer, but honestly, it’s not always clean-cut. The “dream” job could be the thing God uses to break you down so He can build you up. The “crappy” job might be the thing that allows you to find the thing you needed to. I guess I would suggest that you be ready to think, pray, talk to people you go to for advice, and then just pick something honestly.
3) Community is important. SPU sexy job or no, you need people to support you. Being a human being and a Christian means that you’ll have to leave the “lone ranger for God” mentality back where you leave certainty. Think about that one before you decide to up and leave whatever community you may have become a part of.
4) Be where you are now. You may have graduated or not, but you’ll need to practice being. That means owning your limited time in the context you’re in now. Last 2 weeks of school? Live the dream. This time is special. Strive to be present and participate in what is happening TODAY. The future can be thought about and prepared for, but the future is directly linked with what you choose today. I’m saying this for me too.
5) Take a moment to be grateful and rejoice in the things you’ve seen, done, and experienced. Remember when you were a little freshman? Some of you I remember as little freshmen in Emerson Hall. Others I don’t. Either way, you’ve grown a lot. Experienced new things. Developed. 1% of the world gets to go to college. That’s you.
College is a huge experience. Life changes in it and after it. You can read my own pre-graduation thoughts on a page at the top of the screen if you like. Go team college grad. Go.