you’re free to go

A letter to everyone graduating:
You’ve heard “Congratulations” already, but I promise I’m not being redundant when I add my well wishes to the list. You’ve worked so hard to get to where you are, and deserve every celebration over the next few weeks.

Remember when you left high school, and the stars that filled your eyes when you thought about college? You had the choice to craft your future. You chose your school, your major, your roommate, your sleep schedule. You made sense out of a new environment and out of a crazy new lifestyle. You made new friends and new habits, and what was once unfamiliar is now your comfort zone. Just in time for you to start over again.

As you look forward, past the cap and gowns, past shaking hands with your Dean and into whatever you’re doing post-grad, I hope you remember. Remember what it was like to be a freshman–to have the next four years stretched before you, full of promise and opening like a sunrise, and the energy and passion with which you greeted every new experience then. Remember what it was like to be a sophomore–to let go of some things that you’d been enamored with, once you realized they weren’t good for you. Things were still exciting, but they were more familiar, and you reveled in your confidence, because now you knew you could.

Remember what it was like to be a junior–to push yourself harder than you had before because you know you can take it, to aim higher because you know you can make it. You realized you were someone people looked up to, and you determined to be worthy of it. And remember what it’s like right now, to be a senior–to realize what matters most. You’d trade a few of those late nights at the library for a night at the lake with a few friends. You’d give yourself the half hour to sleep in, because you know you’ve been studying for two weeks already. You’d call home and thank your parents, not for anything specific, but just because you realize the last four years weren’t easy for them either.

In your next few years, you’ll add to your repertoire of knowledge and experience. You’ll make new memories, and a little farther down the road, you’ll look back and think about what it was like to be a year out of college, or two. Or three, or four. And then, somewhere along the line, you stop referencing years and memories by their relation to college. Because you’ll make new checkpoints. And it’s going to be amazing.

Remember this, remember now, but don’t be afraid to leave it. Maybe you found yourself on a college campus, maybe you’re still in the works. Maybe you met your soulmate, maybe you found your soul sisters. Whatever happened, treasure it. And close the chapter. You made some amazing memories here, cried really hard and laughed even harder. You made it through, through all the times you thought you couldn’t and kept going on autopilot. You kept going. And now, now on the other side, you’re done. You’re free to go. Even though you might feel like that’s the last thing you’re ready to do.

These years were amazing, but there’s so much more in store for you. Take what you’ve learned–about yourself, about your friends, about learning and about responsibility–and grow on it. You won’t know everything, and that’s okay. Because you’re not meant to. Be a sponge, not a checklist, and go live the life you want to smile, looking back upon.

You’ve got this.

Much love, always.


{ pictures by the amazing Samantha Kelley King }

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