It's the day after your graduation day. You wake up in your tiny apartment with a striking new pit in your stomach. After a few moments, the realization that you're transitioning from college into the real world sinks in, and fear and worry overwhelm you.
In addition to your lack of community and/or career, you also realize your pockets are empty. Inevitably, the money train from mommy and daddy has pulled into the station with plans to never run again. You wave goodbye to your once-extravagant daily Starbucks ritual and begin the search for loose change in the couch cushions so that you can afford your gourmet Top Ramen meal for lunch. With no money for gas in your car, no random cash lying around for movies, restaurants, or booze -- you find your life will be changing drastically from its former self.
The only break from this reality comes in the form of graduation gifts. You'll find yourself checking your mailbox daily -- each time prayerfully hoping there will be a new check from your long lost great-aunt Bessy who has heard of your celebratory exit from university and is congratulating you with a wad of cash or a hefty check. When this happens, you'll walk with a little kick in your step, smiling widely. And while this moment will increase your happiness for the day, it'll pass when the lovely money somehow dissolves into rent money, gas money, or other random bills. You'll discover that this is a real transition and you're going to need more than just your finances worked out to get through it.
You see, when you and I think about graduation gifts, we automatically assume the best gift any grad could get upon entering the real world is money. And yes, the extra cash certainly helps many grads get on their feet. While every grad may believe early on that they would prefer money, having been out in the real world for a year, I wish I had known that a truly valuable gift is hard to put a price on.
I think back upon the lessons I learned camping as a child with my parents. Once, we hiked through the rivers, leaping from rock to rock, and my dad lectured me about the infamous Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; feed him for a lifetime." I never truly processed this concept until recently, realizing now, as all newbie graduates will, that you cannot truly understand something until you experience it. While the real world is an exciting concept, fear is the primary vehicle driving new graduates. For me, my future was ominous and fast approaching -- I needed cash to pay the rent, but I desperately needed some kind of guidance as well.
The current generation, myself included, is a spoiled group of young people who desire speedy, almost instantaneous results. We operate like our technology -- we need happiness NOW, gratification NOW, purpose NOW. We all have bought into the idea that more "things" will satisfy our desires, but all our toys do is mask how truly lost we feel. Although we'd be too proud to admit it, our true desires cannot be found in the next Apple gadget, but we really need love, encouragement, support, direction, and HELP which all blend together into a warm soup of reassurance in our worried minds.
I wrote my book to be a gift that keeps on giving for new graduates. When I was faced with the unknown real world last year, I would have wished to know what I know now about this foreign landscape that holds struggle and opportunity. I was scared then, and this year's graduates are scared as well! I guarantee that my book will lead them to a new fulfilling approach to life.
Parents, grandparents, and long lost great-aunt Bessy -- I challenge you to choose a gift that keeps on giving to show more support for your graduate than an i-Pod or a wad of cash. Show your support and belief in their future by giving your graduate the tools that will lead them on their journey with confidence and for them.
Follow Bridget Nielsen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bridgetnielsen