From The College Senior Scared Of Graduating

I'm About To Graduate From College, And TBH? I'm Absolutely Terrified

What happens next?

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I have always been afraid of change. I hate the feeling of instability, of uncertainty, of not knowing what's waiting for me around the corner. I like consistency, I like routine, I like predictability. Maybe that makes me sound like the most boring person on the planet, but I need to know that five minutes from now, and five days from now, and five years from now that I am going to be OK. If I don't have that sense of certainty, I feel like I'm falling through a pitch black void with no way to orient myself.

When I graduated high school, I resisted all the changes associated with it with every fiber of my being. I refused to get involved with extracurriculars at my new university, I chose a major that I had no interest in but I knew would get me a solid career one day, I clutched on to my high school friends for dear life, and I went home to my parents every single weekend. As you can probably tell, freshman year was my own personal kind of hell.

As the year went on and I stewed in the misery I had created for myself, I began to understand why I was so unhappy: I couldn't let go.

I couldn't let go of the familiarity of high school, of the comfort zone it had created for me. No, high school wasn't always pleasant, but it was easy, it was structured. And instead of trying to find a way to make college life my new normal and to create new rhythms to adapt to, I rejected it entirely and tried to recreate my same high school life in a completely new environment. It was like trying to fit a square into a circle.

Flash forward to now, as I begin to set sail on my last semester in college. Since that first awful year, I've transferred schools, changed my major, made new friends, and, though I do live at home, (don't judge me, it's free and I get to cuddle my dog whenever I want), I don't use my parents as a crutch anymore. I've grown a lot and I've learned to ride the waves of change — but that doesn't mean it's not still scary.

In a few months, I'm going to graduate and enter what everyone calls "the real world." The world of full-time jobs, picking out insurance plans, becoming a homeowner, and lord knows what else. And, as you can imagine, I once again find myself as terrified as I was that first year after high school.

It feels like there's so much I don't know. At least when I was starting college, I knew I still had time to figure this whole "life" thing out. But now, time is up, and I'm still left with a million unanswered questions. Do I need to go to grad school? How do I even begin to start a career? Where will I live? What happens next?

Not knowing the answer to any of those questions makes me feel paralyzed with fear. I truly have no idea what I'm supposed to do after I walk across that stage in May and get handed a diploma that is supposedly meant to embody my preparedness for the next phase of adulthood, when, in reality, I've never felt so unprepared for anything in my life.

The next few months are going to bring some of the most chaotic and unpredictable changes I've ever experienced, and that terrifies me. There's so much uncertainty about what the future holds and it's incredibly destabilizing and disorienting.

But I've learned better than to be taken over by that fear.

I've learned that it's OK to be afraid of change — everyone is, and for good reason. It's a scary thing to abandon your normal for something new, but "new" doesn't need to mean "bad." I won't let myself shut down this time and ignore the reality right in front of me. It's time for me to graduate and move on, just like everyone else. I can either resent that reality, like I did when I graduated high school, or I can try something different this time and embrace it. I don't need to deny the fear that I'm feeling, but I don't need to be controlled by it either. I can choose differently, and this time, I intend to.

I choose to be optimistic about my future and know that whatever happens, I'll land on my feet, because I always do. I know that a lot of things are going to change and I can't try and take the past with me, otherwise, I'll be weighed down by it forever, unable to move forward and find new ways to be happy with my life. I know it's going to get difficult and ugly at times, but I also know that I am not doing this alone and I have a strong head on my shoulders. I'm still scared, but I know that I'll be OK. I have to be.

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So, You Want To Be A Nurse?

You're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.

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To the college freshman who just decided on nursing,

I know why you want to be a nurse.

Nurses are important. Nursing seems fun and exciting, and you don't think you'll ever be bored. The media glorifies navy blue scrubs and stethoscopes draped around your neck, and you can't go anywhere without hearing about the guaranteed job placement. You passed AP biology and can name every single bone in the human body. Blood, urine, feces, salvia -- you can handle all of it with a straight face. So, you think that's what being a nurse is all about, right? Wrong.

You can search but you won't find the true meaning of becoming a nurse until you are in the depths of nursing school and the only thing getting you through is knowing that in a few months, you'll be able to sign the letters "BSN" after your name...

You can know every nursing intervention, but you won't find the true meaning of nursing until you sit beside an elderly patient and know that nothing in this world can save her, and all there's left for you to do is hold her hand and keep her comfortable until she dies.

You'll hear that one of our biggest jobs is being an advocate for our patients, but you won't understand until one day, in the middle of your routine physical assessment, you find the hidden, multi-colored bruises on the 3-year-old that won't even look you in the eyes. Your heart will drop to your feet and you'll swear that you will not sleep until you know that he is safe.

You'll learn that we love people when they're vulnerable, but you won't learn that until you have to give a bed bath to the middle-aged man who just had a stroke and can't bathe himself. You'll try to hide how awkward you feel because you're young enough to be his child, but as you try to make him feel as comfortable as possible, you'll learn more about dignity at that moment than some people learn in an entire lifetime.

Every class will teach you about empathy, but you won't truly feel empathy until you have to care for your first prisoner in the hospital. The guards surrounding his room will scare the life out of you, and you'll spend your day knowing that he could've raped, murdered, or hurt people. But, you'll walk into that room, put your fears aside, and remind yourself that he is a human being still, and it's your job to care, regardless of what he did.

Each nurse you meet will beam with pride when they tell you that we've won "Most Trusted Profession" for seventeen years in a row, but you won't feel that trustworthy. In fact, you're going to feel like you know nothing sometimes. But when you have to hold the sobbing, single mother who just received a positive breast cancer diagnosis, you'll feel it. Amid her sobs of wondering what she will do with her kids and how she's ever going to pay for treatment, she will look at you like you have all of the answers that she needs, and you'll learn why we've won that award so many times.

You'll read on Facebook about the nurses who forget to eat and pee during their 12-hour shifts and swear that you won't forget about those things. But one day you'll leave the hospital after an entire shift of trying to get your dying patient to eat anything and you'll realize that you haven't had food since 6:30 A.M. and you, too, will be one of those nurses who put everything else above themselves.

Too often we think of nursing as the medicine and the procedures and the IV pumps. We think of the shots and the bedpans and the baths. We think all the lab values and the blood levels that we have to memorize. We think it's all about the organs and the diseases. We think of the hospitals and the weekends and the holidays that we have to miss.

But, you're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion, and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.

So, you think you want to be a nurse?

Go for it. Study. Cry. Learn everything. Stay up late. Miss out on things. Give it absolutely everything that you have.

Because I promise you that the decision to dedicate your life to saving others is worth every sleepless night, failed test, or bad day that you're going to encounter during these next four years. Just keep holding on.

Sincerely,

The nursing student with just one year left.

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To The Senior Graduating High School, From Someone Who Hated Almost Every Second Of It

This is the prime time for you to stop reflecting on your past four years and start thinking about the next four.

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You've waited for this day for so long. The day you get to wear that robe displaying your school colors and maybe some medals and cords (I had four). The day you finally get to celebrate what the last 13 years went towards. The day you finally get to say I'm done. You're probably super excited. Maybe you're exhausted. I was both. Maybe you're upset. I was not.

I hated high school. I hated it more than I hate bugs, more than I hate walking in the rain, more than I hate taking a math class. High school was never for me. Yes, I was good at it, but I just hated it. I always knew there was something more for me out there, and I was always determined to find it. And I did. Well, I found some of it. Something tells me I will be continuing to find "it" for the rest of my life.

So, if you are like me and hated just about every second of high school, or even if you're one of those people who claim to have peaked in high school, let's talk about graduation.

Many people claim to acquire 'senioritis" during their last semester or two of high school. I, however, developed it freshman year. The only thing that kept me closer to sanity was my involvement. I was a member of many teams, clubs, and organizations. Most high school students tend to join at least one group, and this, for me at least, was what made leaving almost bittersweet. Almost.

Now, I guess I didn't write this to only talk about myself, so let's talk about you. This is the prime time for you to stop reflecting on your past four years and start thinking about the next four. Even if you choose not to go to college, still give this a thought. However, don't do what I did: plan. I always referred to myself as a planner, and it blew up in my face quicker than I could have ever expected. It set me back a lot.

I know it sounds ideal to plan the rest of your life right down to the wallpaper shades of your future bathroom, but I've learned to take life day by day, and I started as soon as I graduated.

Maybe you do want to rebrand. Maybe you want to feel like yourself again. Maybe you want a drastic life change, or maybe just a minor one. Whatever you feel like doing after graduation, do it. Do you (as cliche as that sounds).

Graduation is pretty eye-opening, and don't let it scare you. You're growing up. You're becoming your own person. It's a decently large deal. Don't take it for granted, and please, don't try to "stay in the loop." Make your own.

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