How I Found Peace in the Days Leading Up to Graduation

In the weeks before my college graduation, conversations all tend to seem the same. They go a little something like this:

“How are you feeling?”

“Where are you moving post-grad?”

“Do you have a job yet?”

Asked individually, these questions are enough to make even the most confident and relaxed individual start to sweat. Ask all three of them at once? It’s enough to ignite a full-blown panic attack in a college senior.

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That being said, I’ve decided to bypass the panic attacks and head toward a path away from all of the chaos. I’ve chosen peace. Yes, you read that correctly. Peace—a word that I’m almost certain has never been associated with graduation up until now. Graduation usually means job stress, student loans, a step away from what’s been comfortable for four years, and the fact that, for most of us, we don’t have a clear vision of what’s going to happen in the days, weeks, and months to follow.

I was sitting in my school’s student center a couple weeks ago at a table with fellow graduating seniors. Each and every person was staring intently at their computer, muttering about job opportunities, LinkedIn connections, and rental agreements. No one was engaging with anyone else; the panic and stress that comes with this particular transition was taking my friends hostage. I wasn’t necessarily immune to the stress. My days had been filled with job boards and unanswered emails. I had been so zeroed in on making plans that I was becoming pretty miserable.

The following weekend, my mom drove down from New Jersey to help move some preliminary things out of my apartment. It was a nightmare for both of us—she was trying to cope with the fact that this momentous period in her life was coming to a close, and I was starting to see a home that I had built for myself come apart. I was the second and final child to graduate from college, and for seven years, my mom had been moving us in and out of apartments, coming to homecoming football games, and buying enough memorabilia to open her own store. We were both teary-eyed at several points during the weekend, but as she was leaving, she said something that stopped me in my tracks.

“It’s all going to work out.”

Every part of my life will work out because it already is working out. I’ve had an incredible college experience filled with extra-curriculars, amazing classes that have allowed me to feel comfortable in the pursuit of my passion for writing, and friends that I know will last a lifetime. I think something that some of my peers and friends forget is that the world hasn’t let us down so far, and there’s no reason to believe that once we graduate from college, the world will turn against us. It’s with that assurance that I can write with certainty that everything is going to work out.

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Instead of allowing chaos, panic, and stress to overrun my last couple weeks of school, I’ve chosen peace. I’ve started checking my email less. I’ve decided to stop taking the unanswered emails so personally. I’ve started implementing no-phone time with my friends so we can get back to talking about things that are out of our control. I’ve started reading more before bed and listening to music instead of scrolling aimlessly through job boards.

Now, before you write me off, consider this: By making an active choice to slow down and take time for yourself, you end up being more productive and content in making decisions. For example, by investing in personal relationships, you inadvertently grow as a networker, which is truly how opportunities are created in the professional world. Specifically, one of my friends took time to travel during her senior year. She met a man in the Dublin airport who had a Make-A-Wish Foundation backpack. She strummed up a conversation with him and wound up with a phone interview and a possibility. For me personally, getting back to the things that provide me joy and comfort led to a more centered life.

As I continue to search for jobs and start to take on this major life transition, I’m going to continue to choose peace. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stress and focus only on impending responsibility. However, without balance and attempting to find perspective in these last couple of weeks, I would have spent countless hours sending resumes to every job posting I came across, but missed out on time that I would never get back. Now, as I reflect on my final days, I feel confident that my personal relationships and my peace-of-mind will remain intact.

Originally published on May 8, 2017.

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Gillian Dukoff is a recent graduate of James Madison University. She loves the beach, trying out new restaurants, and the Oxford comma.