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To The Class of 2018: You Still Have A Lot To Learn

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To the Class of 2018:

Congratulations! You made it.

You survived four years of college and are now off to do great things. You’ve challenged yourself. You’ve pulled all-nighters. You’ve grown exponentially since you first set foot on campus as a freshman four years ago.

You’ve worked hard and are now ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Some of you will begin coveted jobs and internships. Others of you will be off to law school, medical school, or some other doctoral or professional program.

Maybe you have your heart set on saving the world. Maybe you just want to make bank.

Whatever your plan is, know that you are not alone.

Because, whether you realize it or not, there are literally thousands of other versions of “you” out there. I hate to break it to you, but you will soon learn that you are not special.

You’re also not as smart as you think you are. No matter how intelligent you are, I guarantee that you will soon meet someone smarter.

You will meet people who are more accomplished who have more letters after their name. They will have traveled more than you and to more exotic places. They will speak more languages than you. They will have more experience with more impressive employers.

They will hail from bigger cities and have better connections.

Whatever you do, they will do better.

It will seem impossible that there can be so many people who are so objectively more successful than you—but they will be there in droves.

If you attend professional school, you will hear the accomplishments of your peers rattled off on your first day of orientation, and you’ll wonder who in the world these people are. It won’t matter if you attend your reach school or your safety. You will be surrounded by the incredibly, embarrassingly accomplished.

You may burn with insecurity, or maybe you’ll feel completely at home. Whatever the case, you will soon be hit hard with the realization that you are not all that unique. In fact, you may even have professors whose sole job seems to be pointing out the fact that you’re not that great.

Of course, some of you really will be that good. The top 5% exists for a reason, friends. But even they will be challenged in ways they likely won’t admit.

However, the rest of you—and there will be a lot of you—will be hit hard with the realization that life is hard. That you’re not the first person to walk the path you’ve chosen. That, in fact, hundreds of thousands have come before you and that you must contend with all of them.

You will try out for law review or run for student office and find your plans upended when you don’t make it. You’ll be shocked to learn that the A+ you were expecting looks a lot more like a solid B.

You’ll realize that when you’re pitted against the best of the best of the best, attaining your previous definition of success suddenly gets a lot harder. And yes, you will encounter this even if you went to a prestigious college.

If you immediately enter the working world, you’ll quickly learn that most jobs are thankless and that you’ve worked hard all these years only to be thrust into a life where you must work harder. You’ll find that your nights and weekends won’t be yours, and that, unlike some of your college classes, there will be actual consequences for blowing off work.

You’ll say goodbye to enjoying holidays and summer breaks.

You’ll be expected to keep up alongside colleagues who have decades of experience on you.

These realizations will shock you because, although you’ve worked hard and competed all your life, you still don’t know what big time adulting looks like. This is it, friends—and yes, it is damn hard.

You may, for the very first time in your life, doubt yourself. It won’t be pretty, but don’t lose hope.

Because what you don’t know now is that this is how you grow. This is how you learn who you are. This is how you finally set yourself apart from the masses.

What they don’t tell you in high school and college is that true personal and professional growth requires a blow to the ego. You must be knocked down before you can be built up.

You might lose some swagger, but you will gain humility, wisdom, and strength.

You will learn that your plans may not turn out as you expected, but this is only because you couldn’t mold yourself to the unknown model of your future self.

You will end up exactly where you are supposed to even if it doesn’t quite match the life you envisioned.

You will be OK.

So, new graduates, know that you have some rough road ahead. Know that you might not always enjoy it. But also know that you will soon understand what true success looks like—and that it has nothing to do with letters, numbers, names, or titles.

Congratulations. Welcome to the real world.

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