Because it’s commencement speech season

May 18, 2012 in Career,Life,Philosophy,Travel

I don’t remember a word of what was said at my college graduation. I had been at the bar drinking Bloody Mary’s since 6 a.m., was force-feeding water to my friend passed out on my shoulder, the sun was blazing and I just wanted President Zingg to pronounce my name correctly as I walked across the stage, to have lunch with my parents and party with my friends. In a matter of weeks, I’d be celebrating my 21st in Las Vegas and then heading out for five weeks on my own in Europe. Sure, I needed a job, but the real world wasn’t quite here yet, and I was grateful for that.

Graduation party at home 2009

Three years have passed since I received my degree. I’m not sure where I thought I’d be at this stage, but I certainly didn’t think I’d be here: living at home for a few months while I prepare myself to go visit friends I made while bartending in Nice and then cruise through Croatia and road-trip across the USA. In many ways, I’m even more clueless now than I was then. Then, I had a boyfriend who I thought would become a husband, a plan for a successful career in PR, a quiet contentment with how evenly things were playing themselves out for me. Now it seems as if my future is an open book, a diary in which I only know how things will go as I pen my summary at the end of each day.

I’m still sweetly, irresponsibly young. “You might not have career success, but you have life success,” a friend recently quipped, a zinger that I’m sure came from the right place but bitterly reminded me of my utter lack of focus in the work arena. So while I can’t offer the latest crop of grads advice on how to land a job, here’s what I’ve learned about living:

Christine Amorose and Miamah Reed

Friendships aren’t necessarily forever. If you need to break up with a toxic friend, do it. A friendship is ultimately a relationship: you are choosing to spend bits of your life with this person, and if they are bringing you down, if you realize you disagree on fundamental issues, if you are no longer proud to be associated with them: break up with them. And if you’ve made the mistake that causes the end of a friendship: accept it, strive to be better and move on. You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, so surround yourself with encouraging, supportive, ambitious people (and be someone whom others want to be with). Make friends with people you want to be like, and cherish those friendships that absolutely nothing can touch. (Note: the photo above is my absolute best friend who thinks I’m crazy, but loves me anyway.)

End relationships with grace. You can fall out of love with someone, realize that your dreams are different–but don’t forget what made you fall in love with them in the first place. Treat them and the relationship with the respect it deserves; speak about them as you’d wish them to speak about you. Remember: you chose to date them, to bring them into your life and to keep them there for however long. A string of crazy ex’s and unhealthy relationships says just as much about you as it does about them.

Don’t let your life revolve around weekends. If you do, you’ll only be living 28% of your life. If you are dragging yourself from Monday through Friday just to drink into oblivion on the weekend: rethink things. Live your life so that every day matters, so that every day is worth remembering. If that means finding a job you care about, start searching. If that means traveling the world, start saving. Just do something: apathy will lead you nowhere.

Sleeping under the stars at Stirling Ranges, Western Australia

Sleep under the stars. Spend time in nature: away from the internet, away from your iPhone, away from the noise of everyday life. Go for a hike, watch a butterfly, swim in a creek. Pay attention to the details that are lost in a world of concrete: the whisper of a breeze through the trees, the constant motion of a field of grass. The sun rises and sets every day: when’s the last time you truly appreciated one?

Don’t spend money you don’t have. “I am happy as long as I’m healthy, and rich as long as I don’t have debt,” a hippie on the beach in Vietnam once told me. Stop buying rounds of drinks and start paying off your loans and credit cards. Spend your money on memories that will last a lifetime, not a designer bag that will be out of fashion next season. Do the math, and don’t live beyond your means.

Be realistic about worst-case scenarios. I’ve moved halfway across the world twice, and each time, I’ve calmed my nerves by stating the obvious: if this doesn’t work out, I can go home. I have a credit card, planes leave every single day, my parents have a futon. Do I want that to happen? Absolutely not. But that’s my worst-case scenario, and honestly, it’s not that bad–which leaves me open and ready to take a risk.

Postcards, cards and letters I received in Australia from friends around the world

Buy stamps. Send thank-you notes: paper-in-envelope, handwritten, throw-it-in-a-blue-mailbox thank-you notes. Say thank you for a gift, for lunch, for being a good friend. Send birthday cards so that they arrive before the actual birthday, proof that you can still remember important days without Facebook. Send postcards, even if you haven’t left your hometown. Be thoughtful, and practice your penmanship. Give and you shall receive–save the snail mail you collect: punch a hole in a corner, and snap it onto a binder ring for easy organization.

 Vacation time is there for a reason. Stop feeling guilty and use it. Trust other people and realize that you are not indispensable, especially when your entry-level responsibilities consist of things a monkey could do. Understand that your mental and physical well-being is just as–if not more than–important as your job, that your commitments to friends, family and significant others are just as serious as your work responsibilities. Do not shirk your friendship duties for work duties.

Fear less, hope more. Eat less, chew more. Whine less, breathe more. Talk less, say more. Love more, and all good things will be yours. A Swedish proverb that pretty much sums it up.

What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned lately?

  • Grey

    This is another good read from you, thank you.

    Recent greatest life lesson that I have learned: That I would rather be by myself and be myself, than be with someone and be someone else. We need to be felt and seen as “us”; not the improved version of us.

  • This is all excellent advice! Great job writing it up. 
    A lesson I’ve learned lately is that  we have to do what we believe will bring us joy, even if it means it might disappoint the people we care about. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to what we should do with our lives (get married, buy a house, etc.), but ultimately we need the courage to follow the path we believe will make us happy. 

  • I second your advice 100 percent…but I really wanted to say that your graduation dress was really cute. Hope you took it with you on your travels!

  • I think that, in the long run, your advice is a lot more useful than job advice! I mean, the stuff you’ve learned is what you gain from actually living life, and that’s a lot harder to come by than getting a job. 

  • Louise

    Wow! I can’t say how much this post meant to me. I recently ‘broke up with’ a Uni friend and consequently all my other Uni friends and I’ve felt so horrible about it! But your words put it all into perspective for me. Thank you! I weirdly feel like This post was meant for (okay.. I’ll stop gushing now;) I hope your future travels bring you as much joy as the last :) maybe I’ll spot you in the States sometime

  • Job advice is overrated. 

    Most important lesson? Trust your gut. It’ll save you a lot of time, and often be more right than if you spend a few hours analyzing a problem/decision/etc

  • Great advice! I slept through my college graduation, so I also definitely don’t remember the commencement speech haha. (Although I did share my high school graduation speech on my blog today!) I loved what you said about snail mail: I always have a booklet of Forever stamps and a booklet of postcard stamps, and I never let one run out. I just love real mail. :)

  • This is such great advice, and it can apply to people of all ages and of all backgrounds. I think the biggest life lesson I’ve learned over the past few years is that everything will be OK in the end, and there is no use sweating the small stuff. I knew this for years, of course, but only in my mid to late twenties did I actually start applying it, and I’m such a happier person for it.

  • My god this was beautiful! I agreed with everything you said!!!

  • I LOVE this! Very inspiring–and inspired! I especially love the part about worse-case scenarios. One of my favorite things to say is that if you want something, you should ask for it, because the worst thing someone can say is no. I think this is similar–being told no is the worst case scenario, and if you go through your life accepting that “nos” might happen but not being afraid to ask anyway, I think you’ll have a much richer experience in general :)

  • This is a beautiful little post! I’m so happy that you decided to take an alternative life path filled with its share of risk  and reward! When you really decide to take a deep breath and delve into life, you start to live the life you imagined! Rock on!

  • LostInCheeseland

    I need that Swedish proverb permanently etched in my mind. So important! 

  • Pingback: Lessons Learned from a Month of Wisdom()

  • camorose

    Glad you enjoyed it! That’s a great lesson–I have definitely put that into practice on my solo travels :)

  • camorose

    Definitely agree with that–having the confidence to follow our own path is difficult, but well worth it!

  • camorose

    Thank you! I actually didn’t take it with me because it got wrinkled super easily–not the best for backpacks and hostels :)

  • camorose

    And I figure recent grads are pretty much inundated with job stuff right now too–and that’s only a piece of the whole life puzzle!

  • camorose

    Bah friend break-ups are the WORST! I still have trouble dealing with mine, but I’ve realized that you can’t keep dwelling on the past if you want to have a bright future! Glad that this post found you when you needed it :)

  • camorose

    Bah! That’s definitely one I need to get better at–I overanalyze (and make my friends overanalyze) EVERYTHING.

  • camorose

    I think everyone loves getting mail–especially when it’s not bills! I don’t know why more people don’t realize that and brighten people’s day with a quick card :)

  • camorose

    I need to get better about this–I’m one of those people who can deal with big problems pretty easily, but I’ll absolutely freak out if something small goes wrong on a bad day. Good reminder :)

  • camorose

    Awww thanks lady! Glad you liked it :)

  • camorose

    I think that way too–the worst someone can say is no, and that’s usually not thaaaaat bad! And then, at least, you know–I’d rather hear “no” than go through a life of always wondering “what if”.

  • camorose

    I feel so motivated just reading your comment! Sometimes that bit of encouragement is just what we need to keep on going–so thank you!

  • camorose

    I had it on an index card next to my bed in Australia so that I saw it every morning and night–it’s such a good reminder of what’s important in life!

  • Aawww this was very sweet, and just oh so true!  It’s comforting to know that even though I’m all on my own now, if shit hits the fan and things don’t end up well, I know my parents/family will always be there for me.  I’m grateful to have that because, unfortunately, not everyone has that kind of support.  And totally agree with buying stamps!  As someone who still appreciates receiving birthday/Holiday cards in the snail-mail, I get really excited picking out cards for friends/family/loved ones!

  • Exactly :)

  • camorose

    Is there anything better than finding a really cute card shop??? I could spend hours picking out the perfect card for people :)

  • waitingfor1202013

    that is excellent advice. Especially the thank you notes 😉

  • Pingback: Postcard from California State University, Chico | C'est Christine()

  • I love this! <3

  • Pingback: Travel Writing Round Up [June 2012] - Caroline in the City()

  • Hmm… Slept under the stars in the Thar Desert, Swam in a creek on Fraser Island, and chased butterflies somewhere in China in Japan. Check, check and check! Really great stuff Christine. So much just had to share it!

  • camorose

    Yay, thanks lady :)

  • camorose

    What a life! Love it!

  • Marjolein

    Wow! You’ve summed up just about every life lesson I learned these past few years. An impressive list, I must say 😉 Thank you!

    I am so happy to have found your blog here – You are such a great example of how to grab life and enjoy it. I just booked the Nullarbor Traveller trip for Dec and was looking for reviews – thanks for confirming it’s a trip worth taking.

    I also just spent a week in NYC and read you are planning to visit, so here’s a few things I loved doing there:
    1 biking the city – I found a book called Ride With Me NYC, written by a fellow Dutchie, which has fun routes and tips (I loved the Coney Island tour)
    2 sailing the Hudson in the Schooner Adirondack (sail-nyc.com) – have done that  on a couple visits now, and will def do it again someday
    3 having lovely Brazilian food & cocktails at Esperanto (esperantony.com)
    4 walking the Highline
    5 renting an apartment in Williamsburg in stead of staying on Manhattan. More value for money and gives you another perspective on the city.

    Happy Travels!!

    Marjolein

  • camorose

    Yay yay yay! SO glad you’re doing the Nullabor Traveller, it was one of my best Oz experiences, and thanks so much for the NYC tips–getting so excited for my trip!

  • Jamie K.

    Really well captured and written, Christine. Thanks for sharing.

  • camorose

    Thanks, Jamie–we’ve got to get people buying stamps if our card and cupcake shop is going to be a success!

  • Desiree

    What a great post. Thank you for this:)

  • camorose

    Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it :)

  • BakoymaTravels

    End relationships with grace.
    This whole paragraph is so well written and so important. Well said!

  • camorose

    Thank you!

  • Pingback: You are your priorities | C'est Christine()

  • Pingback: #PostGradLife | The Great Big World: As Told By Dana()

  • Pingback: Notes on authenticity | C'est Christine()

  • Pingback: Inspiration | August 23 | Life In Limbo()

Previous post:

Next post: