Post Grad, Pumpkin Pie, and Poster Sessions

The air had shifted. When I returned to campus yesterday from Thanksgiving break, the final leaves of my last fall semester had been replaced by wisps of melting snow. I had just spent the week in California, where the sky looked impeccably blue and the breeze came in around a blissful 75 degrees every day. When I landed in San Diego, I felt as if I was on different planet from my familiar Vermont, palm trees lazying outside the airport and sailboats floating in the marina. Even though I had previously lived in San Diego, the city felt altogether foreign as if I was the one who had changed since I left at 15.

Once I settled, San Diego welcomed me with open arms. I meandered down the beach at least once a day, and I reveled in walking out of the house without a sweater. I indulged all my California cravings: fish tacos from Roberto’s, In N Out milk shakes, and my favorite Turkado sandwich from “Board N Brew” in Del Mar. I could feel myself slowly recharge, as if the sunrays themselves revitalized me.

I refocused this energy to thoughts of post-graduate life. Usually, Thanksgiving serves simply as a break from the demands of the semester. This year, images of post-graduate life filled my mind as I picked over rocks at the beach or during conversations over scones and frittata. I spent car rides contemplating hypotheticals and potential options, uncovering goals for both personal and professional development. What about this amazing position in a foreign city or this unknown job in a familiar place?

At our Thanksgiving meal with my mom’s family, I got asked ten thousand times about my plans after graduation. Each time, I winked and told them that that was the million-dollar question. At my cousin’s bridal shower with my father’s family, my older cousins sympathized with my predicament. “It’s like applying to college all over again, expect there’s no decision date and no clear timeline.”

I had pushed the question out of my mind until I had gotten to San Diego, where the air felt clearer and my head more steady. I couldn’t think about papers and exams and presentations and stipends and fellowships and moving costs all at the same time. But I gave myself the space in California. I let the wide ocean be my blank canvas, my sounding board, my scratch paper. With space and clear thinking, I remembered. Everything works out the way it should. Yes, I need to plan deliberately and weigh all of my options. Yes, I need to take time write applications, do interviews, and ask for recommendations. But only wonderful things await. So I can continue to let the fear of the future weigh me down. Or, I can celebrate the beauty of the next, tentative step.

The choice is yours, high school seniors. Will you join me in seeing the possibility in what’s next?

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