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Loss and Gain of Purpose

Congratulations to the class of 2023. For those like me, completing undergrad marks the ending of a 20-year academic odyssey. On one hand, I am elated at the achievement. On the other hand, I mourn the end of my academic career.

Graduating from college feels different than completing other grades. From middle school to high school there was always a clear objective: Make it to the next grade. College also has a clear objective: Graduate and get a diploma. For most of my life, there has always been a clear purpose. Everything was already laid out for me. The path to take was already paved.

If you are anything like me, school has been the single most important task of your life.  I have always been good at academics, and I am not sure if I am good at anything else. The opportunity to explore the different things life has to offer was never presented to me in short, school has been my life, and now that it is over, I feel like I have lost my purpose.

As a first-generation student, graduating college is seen as the pinnacle of achievement. I have always relied on the encouragement from my family, friends, and community to achieve what none of them had before. Now that I have graduated, I am going further than anyone in my family.  As I reflect on these things a realization hits me: graduating undergrad represents the completion of a 20-year phase in my life. A phase in which I relied on authority to guide my action. Now I must take accountability for my own life, and the weight of that responsibility scares me.

I believe it is important to embrace fear and change. Achieving a lifelong dream is an accomplishment. It is also valid to mourn the ambition, drive, and direction it gave you. Purpose does not have to stay the same. Sometimes things feel pointless, like just floating in the middle of nowhere. In moments like this it is important to give yourself grace and compassion. Start small, perhaps your purpose today is to apply for three jobs daily, make breakfast, take a walk, spend time with loved ones. They may not seem as grand as graduating college, but it is important to take time and celebrate your victory before going to the next step. Even if it feels like you are just going through the motions, each action you take will bring you to the next phase in life. For now, my purpose is to express the highs and lows of post-grad life.

Purpose is more than a task to complete. Graduating college is more than getting a diploma. Focus, drive, dedication, and discipline are all important skills that were practiced there. Make a list of the skills you have gained. The lessons you have learned and the revelations you have made about yourself and the world. Amidst these things is the recipe for your new purpose.