4 years, 4 lessons: What I’ve learned since graduating college
I’ve now been out of college for as long as the time spent in it. The pace and momentum of the last four years have left me with enough positive adrenaline for the next few, along with some whiplash. It was only four years ago that with tears welling in my eyes, I walked across the stage with my classmates at The Theatre School, shook our dean’s hand and walked away with the blank certificate holder (that we should really tell college freshman about to set their expectations).
Four years ago, this very week, I felt so sure about what the next four would hold. In truth, I had no idea. Here are four lessons I’ll never forget:
Lesson #1: FIND YOUR PEOPLE.
Everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I go, I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with good people. You may have heard that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. I believe it wholeheartedly. These people, who have entered (or stumbled) into my life over the years, yield a total sum that makes me grateful. That’s why I cherish my family, significant other, friends from all over the world, and coworkers. It’s critical to choose the people who surround you with intention.
But, I slipped up after graduation. I gave people who weren’t worth my time too much of it. I was trying to fit into a box someone else built for me. It was cramped, dense and dark. My good people helped me pry my way out of that box. It took longer than I thought, but they were patient, they were kind, and they never gave up on me.
Don’t let people bring your down, ever. It takes more time to build yourself back up. Cherish the people who bring light.
LESSON #2: LEARN WHAT YOU LOVE (AND WHAT YOU DON’T). Growing up, my mom always had music playing in our house. Her favorite songs would carry from the kitchen all the way upstairs into our bedrooms. It was a sign of life, movement and always put a smile on my face. Except when she played Barry Manilow. I can’t stand his music (sorry, Mom).
After graduation, with the exception of a five-minute radio session on my very short drive to work, there was no humming, singing in the shower or cooking with sweet sounds in the background. I can’t comprehend it now. I was so busy trying to adjust, figure out life on my own and keep my head above the waves of change, I didn’t notice that I allowed something that brought me joy, something I loved, slip out of my daily routine.
Life is kind of like a playlist.
You fill it with songs that you love, or the hottest tune of the moment. But, the great thing about playlists is that you can revise them or begin fresh. You can shed the songs that don’t light your fire anymore and add the ones that make you want to dance it out in the morning with a coffee in hand. It’s unlikely that the playlist of your life will sound the same five or ten years from now. That’s okay. It’s growth.
LESSON #3: LIFE IS SWEET, SO TREAT IT THAT WAY. Among other reasons, my life is pretty sweet because I had one of the coolest jobs in the world. For the last three years, I’ve worked on the global corporate affairs team at Mars surrounded by delicious M&M’S, pet-friendly offices and supportive coworkers. Mars is the kind of place you can develop a career your proud of and enjoy dinner with you family most nights. Though, my family is a family of two right now, we love and appreciate this aspect of the company. Working for one of the largest family-owned businesses, that also happens to hold similar values to mine, makes a world in the difference of how I view the 40+ hours per week at the office.
By finding a company that aligned with my purpose, I stay engaged, take on new challenges and make impacts that are meaningful to me.
Lesson #4: THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING. I couldn’t predict the whirlwind of the last four years, and I’m not going to pretend I can see into the future for the next four. When I graduated in 2015, this truth made me anxious; today, it’s thrilling. Cheers to another four years.