I learned one lesson from the college graduation day that I did not attend: expectations hardly ever become reality.
I graduated from college in May 2017, but unfortunately was not able to attend the day I had spent the past four years working so hard for. Less than a week before the big day, I was diagnosed with strep throat and pneumonia, and given about four different prescriptions.
When the reality sunk in that I wouldn’t be able to walk across the stage with my cap and gown and have the graduation day I had dreamt of for so many years, I cried. A lot. Although my friends and family were very understanding, it somehow did not ease the sadness and disappointment I felt.
I write about the expectations and the reality of my college graduation day because, the more I think about it, the more I realize it illustrates the journey of a college senior entering adulthood and, most importantly, the journey one faces in his/her first post-grad year.
The expectations for adulthood started way before graduation. There was a lot of pressure, from both myself and the people around me, to have my ducks in a row in time for college graduation. The questions from my friends and family were all the same: What are your plans after graduation? Do you have a job? What will your salary be? Where will you live? They never seemed to stop. It made me think that getting a job immediately, moving into my first apartment and living the “perfect” adult life were the only options I had.
This was all exponentially heightened when my friends and I actually earned our diplomas. I felt as if all of my friends were moving through life at warp-speed, checking things they needed to accomplish in order to become a “real” adult. On Facebook, I would see posts of friends getting new jobs or moving to new cities, and found myself immediately hitting the red ‘X’ in the corner of my screen due to pangs of envy, pressure, and failure filling my chest.
I desired that “perfect” life more than anything. I thought that all of my newfound freedom would give me time to start crossing books off my ‘to read’ list. I thought that earning money would allow me to not feel guilty about eating my way through every brunch place in the city. I thought that it would finally be time to have a social life perfectly curated for Instagram, complete with close friends from college and many fun nights out in our nation’s capital. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would even finally meet a nice Jewish boy who would be parent-approved.
However, none of this happened.
Instead, my reality was spending all of my free time looking for a job instead of reading for fun. My reality was saving my money to spend on things I needed for my new apartment instead of spending it on brunch. My reality was saying goodbye to some of my closest friends from college as they started their new chapters away from DC (where we all went to college).
Now that I have been out of school for six months, I find myself reflecting a lot on my experiences since that day I missed my graduation in May. While it might not be exactly what I expected, the reality I currently live is still pretty great. I have found a great support system in DC (shoutout to GatherDC’s Mini-Gatherings for helping with that). I have continued to explore and experience all that this city has to offer. I have continued to learn about myself, and what I want out of life.
In the past six months, I’ve learned that it’s okay if the path I end up paving for myself differs from the one I expected to follow, as there is no right way to go about things.
Your priorities might be different than the priorities of those around you, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong. Decide what is important for you to focus on, and commit to it. For me, that has been spending time with friends, and finding ways to live a Jewish life that is authentic to me.
I also learned that the choices you make are not permanent. It’s not the end of the world if you realize a decision you made turns out to not be the right one for you. It is important to be comfortable with change, and be able to go with the flow.
As I ponder what the coming six months have in store, I feel ready to greet them, even if my reality is different from my ideal.
About the Author: Bryna Kramer is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. She is originally from the small, southern town of Danville, Virginia. She’s been in D.C. for just over four years, as she moved here in 2013 to attend American University. When she is not busy covering the Wizards on a nightly basis or hosting her own podcast, Meet Us At Molly’s, you can find her binging television or brunching her way through the city. Follow her on Twitter.