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Take a deep breath

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September 29, 2015

12:00 AM

You are going to be okay.

No, please. Sit for a minute. Listen.

You are going to be okay.

And I’m saying this because I don’t think we’re saying it enough — not out loud and especially not to ourselves.

Before I say more, however, let me admit that I am not without sin in this department. My horse is decidedly the opposite of high, and I don’t even know where I would procure a pedestal. Truthfully, I am scared too.

“I am scared that no one will care about the knowledge I’ve spent four years cultivating (and even then, I’m scared that I didn’t cultivate enough of it to consider myself any kind of expert).”

I am scared that I didn’t do enough. I am scared that my classes weren’t hard or right or “impressive.” I am scared that no one will care about the knowledge I’ve spent four years cultivating (and even then, I’m scared that I didn’t cultivate enough of it to consider myself any kind of expert).

I am scared that I spent too much time with my friends, goofing off and hanging out.

I am scared that I didn’t spend enough time with my friends, goofing off and hanging out.

I am scared that no one will hire me. I am scared that soon I’ll be standing in a supermarket across from Beth what’s-her-face’s mother, trying to come up with an answer about my future and failing.

I am scared.

But recently I looked around and realized … so were so many of us. So were the friends who, in my mind, had no reason to worry at all. You see, the men and women I have been lucky enough to meet here are used to running toward things. They are brilliant and passionate and self-reliant. I am in awe of them. And I know I am not alone in thinking this, because at the College of William and Mary, that is what we do: We stand in awe of one another. We praise one another. We shake our heads, smiling and saying, “I don’t know how s/he does it.”

“… I think we need to take a step back and think for a bit.”

So when these titans of personal achievement, these unflappable humans with resumes that write themselves, when these people are on the phone with their parents panicking about entry-level job requirements and the validity of what they can offer, well — I think we need to take a step back and think for a bit.

And while you’re busy standing up (thanks for sitting earlier, by the way) and stepping back, here are a few of my (entirely unsolicited) thoughts to entertain. If you feel yourself already starting the senior spiral, I hope they help:

1. First, I dare you to name six people who have changed and inspired you here on campus. I bet it was easy. I also bet that you are on someone else’s list, and that is not nothing. Seriously. It’s not. So weigh it before you say you didn’t do enough here.

2. When you’re thinking about what you want to do with your life, promise you won’t imagine the opinion/reaction of your parents, or your professors or for God’s sake not Beth what’s-her-face’s mom. Instead, imagine you’re telling ten-year-old you, and then that you’re telling the fictional Ideal You In Ten Years. I think if they both like the idea, then you’ve got something.

3. Remember that this is not the only time to have “got something.” You will apply for other jobs, in other places, as other future yous. You will have a whole life you can’t even fathom yet, and if that terrifies you, try to let it be in a great way.

4. If you want to take more time, and postpone work/research/grad school/mission trips so you can figure out what’s right for you, that is wonderful and valid.

5. If you want to figure out what’s right for you by trying your hand randomly at work/research/grad school/mission trips, that is wonderful and valid.

6. You are wonderful and valid.

7. Four years ago, a less-developed, less-knowledgeable version of you got into the College of William and Mary — a school that denies nearly 70 percent of students who apply. But they chose you. And you have only become more intelligent and capable since then.

8. There a lot of ways to do something “impressive” — please don’t let yourself feel small in front of those who can only see one.

9. After graduating college, Tina Fey worked at a YMCA. This may not relate to you at all, but it is a fact that I personally find very comforting, so I thought I ought to share it.

10. Last but not least, please remember: if you get a rejection letter, they did not reject you, your person. They rejected a resume. If you get an acceptance letter, you do not have to say yes just to say you have a job. You have the right to do what feels right. And if you are lost and overwhelmed and without letters of any kind and asking yourself “Why oh why does everyone else have letters?”  — take a deep breath. Make a to-do list. Eat the cream out of a double-stuffed Oreo. And remember, there is a person on this campus who knows (I promise, I really know) that you are going to be okay.

Email Alex Granato at [email protected]

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  • Alex Granato