Nothing I’ve experienced yet can match the exhilaration I felt while walking across the stage to accept my Bachelor’s Degree. My decision to forego my sight for beauty caused everything to be a blur, except for the red folder waiting for me at the other end. My back was straight, my face was beat for the cheap seats (yes, tickets were free, but I digress). My walk was steady but paced at a notch just under “too fast!” I was a hybrid of a model and soldier; I felt my curls bounce with every step. This was my moment and I was surely going to bask in it, even if it lasted all of 9 seconds. I walked up to the dean of my program and outstretched my right hand to shake his. My left hand patiently waited to accept my degree and an alumni pin (seriously felt like I was in a secret society). “Congratulations”, the Dean said.

And I was off.

It has been exactly a year since then and the thought of that day still brings a tear to my eye. The amount of: hard work, sleepless nights, positive self-talk (in reaction to negative self-talk), money spent, energy consumed, experience gained, missed opportunities, junk food, study sessions, mistakes, achievements and of course, education needed to get through my university years; were all worth it when I slipped on my cap and gown.

That time has since passed. I turned in my gown at the end of the ceremony and my degree. My graduation cap sit at a makeshift graduation shrine in my room. Clearly, this was major for me. But what now? I thought I’d be asking the question sooner; but with a fun-filled summer and the start of a new job, I don’t think my high permitted me to come down and ask this question.

But now four full seasons have passed and I wonder where the next high will come from. Will I land a job or position that allows me to practice theories and techniques I spent so much time learning? Will I attain a salary that matches what a “university graduate” deserves?  Surely these feats would be a call for celebration. But what about the smaller accomplishments in my life? There won’t be any applause, champagne in fancy glasses, cameras from five family memories asking me to “look here, now over here!”

How will I know I am doing a good job without the celebration? Are my achievements really achievements without a graduation of sorts to mark the ending of a chapter? Even the concept of progress is now skewed for me… Without a pass or fail grade how will I know to move to the next level? How does one who’s found comfort in the institution of education mark success for themselves after they leave school?

I am still figuring it out.

Two solutions I am trying came from Lisa Nichols and a meme, seriously. According to many of Lisa Nichols’ videos on Youtube, we as people tend to focus too much on the “macro wins” in our lives. These our end goals. For example; buying a home, having a book published, saving a certain amount of money or getting a certain amount of clients to support your business, may all be what we will mark as the moment to celebrate, relax or just breathe a little bit. What Lisa Nichols advises though, is to have 10 “micro wins” that will lead to your “macro win”. These are considered benchmarks and they will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by all it takes to finally reach your macro win. She states that having these micro wins established will help to keep you on the right track and organized in terms of where to go next.

A meme I once read said, “celebrate the small victories”. And this automatically made me think of the common expression “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!”

This means if you’ve taken steps in the right direction, acknowledge your commitment to getting that task completed. Say you are looking to have your first novel published. Have you done research on publishing houses who have published books similar to yours? Cheers! Have you put your research down on paper? Cheers! Have you completed your first five chapters? Cheers! Now, this is not to say that you should totally slack off after hitting one milestone, but you should give yourself some credit for the work put in. Progress is a process and focusing on the finish line may sometimes have us feeling dismayed and as if we aren’t doing enough.

Have you experienced this? After graduating, or just in general? I’d love to hear some of the tools you use to mark your progress. Or let me now if you’ve tried the tools above and how they worked (or didn’t work) for you. I know success is sweet, but sometimes stopping to smell the roses on the way there, isn’t so bad either.

Carlie Shrouder

Carlie Shrouder

Carlie Schrouder, poet and recent graduate in Human Relations, enjoys writing about and exploring the transition into "adulting" in the areas of love, life and career. Her goal is to turn negatives to positives. She believes in not just working with the hand she is dealt - but creating her own deck.
Carlie Shrouder

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