These were some thoughts I wrote down in the last weeks of my senior year of college – comments I wrote for the sake of remembering and reflecting on what had happened and what was to come. I share them two years later for the Class of 2018, and for anyone else on the cusp of endings and beginnings.
It was August 23, 2012 —my freshman move-in day. I’d imagined what that day would be like for a while: I’d step on to campus wearing a cool outfit, having a great hair day, feeling strong and independent. On my first day of college, I imagined that I would feel like Beyonce.
August 23, 2012 would be the day that I put the past in the rearview mirror. Gone were the days of prom date drama and SAT prep courses: now I was a college student, and I was ready for my run-the-world moment, the best four years of my life!
Then that day came. Instead of arriving on campus with an air of calm swagger and good hair, I instead toppled out of my family’s minivan, feeling less like Beyonce and more like a 3rd grader arriving for summer camp. I was nervous. I was sweaty. I forgot my toothpaste at home!
To borrow the title of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, I had Great Expectations for those beginning days of college. I was just like Pip, the main character in that novel: eager for the story of my life to become something exciting and enviable. But it turns out that my great expectations for what the future would be like were wrong.
One thousand and sixty days have passed since freshman move-in day. And now we’re here. Perhaps life at this moment is just as you’d pictured it. But maybe life is actually nothing is like you’d imagined it would be. Your major, classes, waist size; your relationship status, career path, spiritual life. When I began this year, I had a great expectations for life after graduation. But then one day I opened my email inbox only to read that the life I’d imagined would not be happening. What was next, I had absolutely no idea.
A friend of mine who once stood up on this stage just as I do now figured out that I was going through an existential crisis and emailed me some words from the sequel—AKA life-after-college. He said this: “Dear Grace: As you begin senior year, you might not know what is next, and that’s okay. But the reality is this: you already know the end to your story. You know the eternity that waits for you on the other side of this life. Each beauty you regard in this life is a glimpse of that…So when you start to feel anxious about the future (which is normal and healthy and will happen), remind yourself of that. You do not know all the chapters that lie in between, but you know that the end is just the beginning, and that changes things.”
Class of 2016: We are about to walk across this stage, get our diploma, take a copious amount of photos, say our goodbyes, and then get into our family’s mini vans and leave this campus. This time we depart not for summer break, but for life. For the next chapter. Some might say that today—graduation day— we’re leaving behind the best 4 years of our lives. But I have to disagree. While these have been some great years for all of us, I know that the best moments of our lives have yet to come. And that’s not just another ill-conceived, great expectation I have—that’s is the truth.
It’s time to close this chapter of life and begin a new one. The stories that lie ahead are probably not the ones you’ve expected. Sometimes life will feel like you’re a 3rd grader being dropped off at camp, and sometimes you’ll realize you’re in the right place doing the right thing. Sometimes the days ahead will be interesting and exciting, other times they’ll be ordinary and simple. Sometimes you will be blinded by disappointment, other times dumbfounded by blessings.
But no matter what situation you find yourself in as we enter this next chapter of life, begin with this: begin with an awareness that the best author of all time will continue to write your story without misconstrued expectations, without flaw or accident or coincidence: WITH purpose. He is a writer whose creativity is never-ending, the one who wrote the story of time itself. He knows what’s next. And that, my friends, changes things.
So here we go. A new chapter begins. This end is just the beginning.