“I am called. I am called. I am called on a mission to love and serve the Lord.” These words, from the theme song of a conference on vocations, strike me as good ones for all of us, especially graduating students.
Several weeks ago I saw one of the seniors at our college visiting one of our senior sisters. I asked her if she were counting the days until graduation? After a pensive pause, she said she did not even want to think about it.
Have you ever felt as if one of your feet was in one world and the other in another? During the last days of the academic year, many students about to graduate can relate to this. The anxiety of graduating for college students, and even some high school seniors, is almost palpable. When I walk around campuses I can often pick out the seniors by the look on their faces. Most traditional students have lived in the secure, sheltered world of education and family. Thoughts of getting a job, being on one’s own and having to go into the “real world” can be extremely scary.
However, one does not have to be a college student to experience transition. Most of us have been through the difficult stage of being “in between” things. Life is filled with transitions, some major and others minor. We experience it when we lose a job, get married or prepare to move to a new and unfamiliar location, etc.
This stage between endings and beginnings can be very uncomfortable. Even so, it is a necessary part of life. Every transition is an ending that prepares the ground for new growth in our lives. Change is an integral part of everyone’s life. Try as some people may, it cannot be avoided.
Letting go of the familiar is rarely easy. Our tendency is to hang on to what we already know. It gives us a sense of security. Some people try to avoid major change, like the perpetual students who continually work on one degree after another and delay starting a career. I am often tempted to tell them to “get a life!”
William Bridges, who wrote several books on transitions, gives some points of advice to help people through this difficult stage. First of all, he advises that we take our time. No rational person expects you to have a 40-hour a week, well-paying job in your field the week after graduation.
Another important suggestion is not to act for the sake of action. Reflect on what is meaningful to you. What are your goals and dreams? This requires discernment and prayer. Call upon God to show you the way. This is crucial for anyone who has to make a major decision.
Also note that good closure is important. Starting something new requires letting go of the previous situation. Be patient. It is a process and doesn’t happen immediately. It is like when someone leaves high school and begins college. For the first few months the person, often refers to how things were done in their old school. I remember leaving a parish that I loved. In my new place I frequently caught myself saying what we did there. Finally, with the help of friends and my own realization, I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t at my former job anymore and I had to let go so I could really begin my new ministry.
It helps to take the time needed to say your goodbyes to fellow students, faculty and all your favorite places on the campus. A suggestion is to sit and reflect on significant events and people who have touched your life. But it is important to remember that you and your fellow students are beginning a new stage in your lives.
Recognize that it is uncomfortable and even painful during times of major transition and that you must take care of yourself in little ways. Don’t look for a job day and night. Take a vacation. Have some fun. Volunteer your time to a worthy cause. Once you land a full time job or get married your time won’t be completely your own.
Finally, find someone to talk to. Choose a person who will listen with an empathetic ear. We all need spiritual guides, but especially when we are going through significant changes in our lives. Don’t try to go through it alone.
And above all else, remember that God has a mission for you and your major task in life right now is to discover how you are going to best carry out that mission. You can make all the money in the world but you will be very poor if you do not answer the call to love and serve the Lord. At our final transition in life Jesus is not going to ask us how much we acquired while on earth or how popular we were. We will be asked how well we loved.