“Confessions of a College Grad” A guest lesson by Joey Cathey.

The questions that keep us up at night are often different from the ones we consider during the day. When the sun goes down and we’re left to the solitary moments in our mind, the things that have been in the back of our head push their way to the front like a superfan in line for the newest Avengers movie.

It’s often easy to make fun of these superfans, or dismiss them as unimportant or irrelevant, but as is often the case with extended metaphors, these superfans are of the utmost importance. The superfan-like questions in our minds represent our passions and values. They represent our hopes and fears of the future. They’re difficult to grapple with and hard to dismiss because they are just that: hard questions.

During the day when we’re around our friends, in class, or at work, they’re usually the last thing we want to be thinking about. What will we do after we graduate, where will we live, will I make new friends, can this relationship work out, what the actual f*ck am I doing with my life? It can be overwhelming.

During my last year at JMU, I realized that I had been suppressing those superfan questions in the back of my head, so about halfway through first semester, I sat down and tried to answer some of them as best as I could. I felt that if I could write it down, I could make it happen.

Flash-forward to right now. As I’m wrapping up my senior year, I feel much more confident about the future than I did at the beginning of the school year. Planning out what I wanted to do helped me a great deal, but acting upon my goals taught me even more. Through all of my experiences, I realized several things on a personal level that have helped me in every aspect of my life. So here they are:

Treat everyone with respect.

It can be tempting to get the last word in or tell someone off, but in the end, it’s almost never worth it. Being respectful towards others will open your life to opportunities and friendships that you may have never thought were possible. Be mindful of history and culture, and know that we’re all products of our past.

Realize that everything is connected.

People, places, communities—they’re all intertwined. The way you treat other people is something that will naturally be reciprocated. Positivity will create more positivity just as much as negativity will breed negativity. Your neighbors, whether they’re in a different city, state, or country, are your brothers and sisters. When things look grim for people far away from you, stick up for what’s right, because you never know when something similar could happen to you.

Do your best for you.

If you’re committed to something, don’t do the bare minimum just to get by. Put in that extra effort to do your very best and you’ll get a feeling of self-satisfaction that trumps any sluggish effort. Even if what you end up with is not the best there’s ever been, know that by looking with a critical eye at your greatest efforts, you will continue to learn and grow as a person or creator.

You are not a brand.

Don’t feel trapped by the expectations that you’ve set up for yourself. Never take yourself too seriously or be afraid to look stupid and admit you’re wrong. Once you get into a good groove, it’s easy to do things out of habit, but it’s important to get out of your element and constantly challenge your beliefs in order to keep growing.

Work hard at working smart.

Sometimes getting an “A” on a test isn’t all that necessary. In college, there is delicate balance between work, school, and social life. As the saying goes, “Pick two.” Knowing when to sacrifice one for the other is key, because all three are equally important. That’s not to say you should blow off studying for an exam to go to a party, but rather, you should prioritize the things that you value and think of the effects both short and longterm.

Take chances.

If there has been one thing that has shaped my life for the better, it has been this. Talk to the person sitting next to you on the first day of class, pursue a hobby or passion, tell somebody that you love them. Don’t let the fear of failure paralyze you. Life goes by faster every day and the people in your life won’t be around forever.

MOST IMPORTANTLY,

Trust in yourself.

Go with your gut feeling and think about the kind of person you want to be when you’re making decisions. No one can ever fully understand your actions except for you, but if you stay true to who you are, people will grasp what you want to accomplish and become invested in your ideas themselves. If you think you can do something; you can. So why not do what you want to?

-Guest Lesson by Joey Cathey-

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