Every May and December thousands of graduates make the leap to becoming an adult. I am currently in that situation, as I graduated almost two months ago. The last four years have been a time of extreme joy, dark voids, exponential periods of growth, isolation, and countless unforgettable journeys that some won't have the opportunity to achieve. The anticipation of graduation was mounting and once it finally happened, I felt a sense of emptiness and confusion. For years I felt trapped like I'd never graduate. Once I graduated, I didn't know what to think, but what I did know was that change was coming.
Have you ever thought about just abandoning your apartment, donating your life savings, burning your social security card, traveling west, and just leaving everything behind? I mean, thinking about it is one thing and actually doing it might be fucking insane... If that is starting to sound like the beginning of a movie in 2007, then you are correct. The film, Into the Wild is a based on Christopher McCandless, and what he did in the early 90s. Christopher's parents thought that wealth could fix anything, as do plenty of people, but wealth will only get you so far. Chris grew up in a wealthy family, but without proper communication, values, actions, and parenting coupled with a forced school structure; it led him to escape the confines of life. Upon graduating, he left Georgia to head west to Alaska. He was living in a state of sine die, meaning that there was no planned course of action. Sadly, Christopher's journey lasted only two years. After making it from city to city, he eventually found his way to Alaska, where he lasted a few months alone in nature. He eventually died after eating poisonous berries. Though his time on earth was short, he lived on his own terms. As someone that resisted the confines of school and society, I would say the end of his life was successful. I am in no means encouraging his life choices, just emphasizing the fact that he did what he wanted, when he wanted. To me, that is what success sounds like.
Obviously, the educational system has worked thus far, but people can always evolve and take a contingency approach to each person. Just like I did, graduates take the step from University to the real world to showcase what they have learned in the last three to five years. This can be a really exciting time for some and for others very intimidating. Think about it, for the last 18 years people have been telling students what to do at all times. This then leads to minimal time being spent on thinking for one's self. This type of structured environment can be detrimental. It brings upon a sense of suffocation, as they cannot freely express themselves. Different personalities cater to different environments, and more times than not these structured environments align well with students. On the other hand, some students get so burnt out that they seek to take an alternative route. After years of living confined they seek to escape the forced structure that society imposed upon them. Through escaping, it creates a sense of liberation and consciousness. The current social structure may assume that living is just common sense, but people really have no idea what they are doing. They either follow someone else, rationalize their actions on impulse, or take the steps necessary to leverage their chances to succeed.
Throughout any given day so many decisions are made without much thought. Internally our unconscious mind makes the decision for us based on the pleasure principle. People seek pleasure and avoid pain, as noted by Sigmund Freud, "We have no hesitation in assuming that the course taken by mental events is automatically regulated by the pleasure principle. The course of those events is incurably set in motion by an unpleasurable tension, and that it takes a direction such that its final outcome coincides with a lowering of that tension that is, with an avoidance of unpleasure or a production of pleasure." Our subconscious thoughts and desires manifest as part of a survival mechanism. For example, if your boss is screaming, you will either work harder because fear is applied as you need the money to survive and do not want to get fired... or you will avoid work. This then leads to less work getting completed because you do not want to be around that person. Now that you are aware of the simple but powerful notion that was set in motion by Freud, you can now take advantage of your future actions. In order to choose your direction, you must become aware of your thoughts. Self-reflection, meditation, finding your inner self, or whatever you want to call it, is vehicle to becoming aware. You and I live from the inside out, not from the outside in. This inner manifestation of ourselves is something so simple, but at the same time so difficult to implement. However, some people neglect meditation, due to some of the stigma that surrounds it. The reason why there is a stigma in the first place is because people do not follow through with it or think that it is for monks sitting for days on end with their orange robes. Just like with anything, it takes practice, and you will probably suck at it. After a little over a year, I still do not excel at it, but it sure does make a difference over time. You do not end up becoming amazing without going through the emotional turbulences of overcoming and knowing the self. Meaning that the path to success is what creates success, as nothing happens overnight. Once you come to terms with that concept, the process of endurance will become that much easier.
The reason why this is relevant is because many people (in this case, graduates) will be entering uncharted territory. Let this be a time to seize the moment and create a tailored life. Teaching and learning mindfulness to better know one's self will help them find their way. People cannot rely on everything that their parents, society, and schooling has taught them over the years. Let this be a wakeup call for those that are in denial. In reality, you are operating with a brain that is outdated. In the United States, students are taught English, Math, Science, and other various subjects, which are critical, but no one is taught how to live well. Christopher McCandless was an extreme example of what can happen if people are pushed to do something for so long, but he created a life of his own. The skill of knowing yourself and what drives you, if channeled correctly, will pay dividends throughout life.
• Don't let an outdated structure control your future
• It is okay to be sad, depressed, happy, and confused as all are human
• Graduation can lead to limitless opportunities if it is a conscious effort
• Success is living on your own terms, not someone else's
• Take advantage of your own psyche through psychology and meditation
• Know that the ride is what makes you great, not the result