a letter to my pre-graduation self

/ 14 March 2014 /
Dear self who’s about to graduate,

Not to be vain or anything, but congratulations! You experienced the bone-crushing pressure, the sleep-deprived nights, and the psychosis-inducing anxieties of tertiary education, but you survived. You struggled, you cried, you commando-crawled through it all, and now, you’re here! You’re victorious! You’re free!


Um. I hate to break it to you, but the pressure and anxieties don’t stop after graduation – they just take on a new form. Your father will now expect you to land a job in The New York Times or its local equivalent. The people in your hometown will be asking about your job title and how much it pays(!). And that one classmate you had from that one minor subject you didn’t want to take? She’s in law school now and she’ll be asking you if you’re taking graduate studies, too.

That’s when you realize that you’re not just at the end of a journey, but at the beginning of a new one. A much difficult one. One that lasts for the rest of your life.

They call it the real world. (Shivers.)

But relax. It’s not so bad anymore.

Because now that you’re receiving your diploma, you’ll have proof that you’ve been equipped for greater things. What do you think all those struggles were for? They were there not only to teach you theories, but to train you to be responsible, self-reliant, and able to borrow ¼ sheets of paper when you can’t be responsible or self-reliant. Okay, maybe not that last one, but the point is, you were being prepared for this. You’ve leveled up, and you should be ready.

Go ahead and dip your feet into this real-world thing. Or plunge into it if you want to. Take the job if you please. Take the apartment. Take in that nice, fresh scent of independence.

Stay on the ball, though. Because this so-called real world – it can swallow you up whole and spit you out in fragments.

Months from your Epic March, you’ll start comparing careers with your batchmates. It starts out oh-so-casually: when you log in to Facebook (or LinkedIn, because you’re a professional now) or when you bump into them at the mall, you’ll find out that so-and-so now has a famous company attached to his name, or has already been given a raise, or has been recognized in some awards ceremony. Plus, he gets to go to Boracay or wherever that year’s trendiest vacation spot is anytime he wants.

Then you’ll start wondering, Why am I not there yet? Why am I not in that position?

So you’ll work harder at your job, slaving away even after hours, in the hopes of getting bumped up. That, or you’ll start looking for a new job in a company that may be less in-line with your skills but more recognizable by the general public. You’ll set aside the hobbies you’re interested in, you’ll forgo some of your lifelong principles, you’ll pretend to laugh at your own ‘childish’ dreams and ideals. In the meantime, you’ll post FB photos of your awesome Friday nights or your awesome work outfits or your awesome cubicle to convince the world that you’re drizzled with awesomesauce as well.

You know what? Fuck that.

This constant comparison, this relentless clambering up whoever’s ladder – is this what you really wanted when you first knew you were free?

It’s all just a rat race, and you’re not a rat. Find your own definition of happiness and don’t be afraid to follow it. If your ‘happiness’ depends on always trying to one-up others, then good luck.

But don’t forget who you’ll be in that moment when you hear your name called to the stage. You’ll be proud, you’ll be genuinely happy, and for the first time in a long time, you’ll be able to breathe.

Do you want to sacrifice that in exchange for the cold heights of these steel skyscrapers?

The world needs you to succeed, but not in the way everyone else expects. The world needs not another cog in the rusty wheel, but a bright stroke of passion and authenticity. The world needs you in your purest, with your true skills, ideals, and individuality intact.

Award-winning graphic designer David Carson once said, “You have to utilize who you are in your work. Nobody else can do that: nobody else can pull from your background, from your parents, your upbringing, your whole life experience.”

And renowned philosopher Alan Watts explained it beautifully: “And after all, if you do really like what you are doing – it doesn’t really matter what it is – you can eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way of becoming the master of something, to be really with it. And then you will be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much, somebody is interested in everything. Anything you can be interested in, you’ll find others who are.”

You don’t have to sell out to a race you didn’t sign up for. Go escape, write, sing, volunteer, plant a tree, grow a farm, sail away from The New York Times or its local equivalent if that’s what it takes for you to stay true to who you are. The world needs it.

Your 2014 self is actually working just 15 hours a week and spending the rest of her time doing things she loves, like reading, writing stuff like this, and watching the sunset from the building rooftop. Sorry, you won’t be rich by this time, and sometimes, the urge to compare will still get to you, but you'll have learned to jump off the wagon. I can tell you one thing: you’ll be happy.

You’re here, you’re victorious, you’re free. Stay that way.

Love (in a not-too-narcissistic way),

Your 23-year-old self


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