05/16/2013 03:31 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2013

To the Class of 2013

There is plenty of doom and gloom out there about us millennials, or Generation Me, or whatever it is that the people at Time Magazine call us nowadays. So I feel somewhat obligated, as a graduate of the class of 2008, a child of the Great Recession, to offer a different view of your freshly-graduated future.

Yes, your life is about to get harder. Much harder, especially if you move back in with your parents, which will make your friend's 200-square-foot attic apartment in Watertown seem like a penthouse condominium.

Yes, it will probably be difficult for you to find a job, though not more difficult than it would be for your parents if one of them suddenly became unemployed. So feel fortunate. Keep formatting those resumes. And please, please proofread. I am proofreading this right now, hoping that you will see me proofreading through your computer screen.

Yes, you will miss college for a year or two. But then you will realize the unbridled joy of being a fully-functioning adult. It is a status for which no one is fully prepared, no matter how prestigious your university or how many lessons you learned from your still-smarter-than-you mother and/or father. So just jump in and quit waiting to feel grown-up.

When I left college and jumped right into graduate school, I was scared and miserable. Over the next five years, I worked no fewer than ten jobs, some of them wonderful and some of them terrible. Some of them were part-time with no benefits, and some of them were full-time with benefits and lousy pay. Yet every copy-writing gig and graded essay meant another step away from the extended adolescence of college and a step towards the calming, reassuring independence of adulthood.

You will probably not hear that sentiment anywhere else, nor feel it when you get your first student loan bill. But the independence you will craft for yourself - even if you have to start off at Domino's answering phone calls from strippers named "Sandy" and "Kitty" and "Sandy Kitty" - will be worth every late shift and every saved penny.

When I took my first teaching job, the insecurity I felt as a twenty-two-year-old was overwhelming. I was frequently asked for my hall pass. The kid who took my picture for the yearbook told me I looked more Zac Efron than English teacher. I used to stand in front of the bathroom mirror between classes, pinch myself, and tell my reflection that I was doing a good job, not knowing that a student had been hiding in the storage closet for the last thirty minutes and was about to completely destroy my lesson. Thankfully, I already knew how to laugh.

It's never fun being the new kid, and once you graduate, you will be the new kid wherever you go. And you will probably not be very good at your job at first, which may be difficult to accept for those of you who made good grades. But you will learn, and you will grow. Yes, you will worry about money. But the money you earned will be yours, and it's not the same as your weekend bartending job or your job as a teenager counting vending machine quarters. It's your world, and it's your salary, and you'll have to figure out how to live in it. Just hope that it doesn't take all of your 20's to figure it out.

A former classmate of mine passed away a few days ago. We went to the same high school and the same college. We took many of the same classes. He's also not the first person from my graduating class, from both high school and college, to die. I don't know why he died, and we weren't close friends. But I do know this: Life is shorter than you think, too short to wait until someone tells you you're old enough, or smart enough, or rich enough to have the life you want. Don't waste your 20's. There's not some dream job waiting for you as you work away in a cubicle. You have to take opportunities, and take risks, and switch jobs, and slowly work your way out of debt.

I was terrified when I drove up to Massachusetts by myself in a 1996 Honda Accord. I was terrified when I graduated. And I was terrified when I moved in with my partner.

But that terror will pass and fade into something more stable, more secure, and more exciting. For a while, you will miss those solo-cup parties, and that time when you replaced all of the lights in your house with blacklights, and that time when you stole an inflatable snowman from a frat house in the middle of July. But then you will have a dog or a kid or a spouse or all three, or maybe just a career, or maybe just a favorite song that will get you through this one day, and you will love them and your life, hopefully, and you will be glad that you graduated. Because you can never go back to the person you were in college.

And even if you could, you wouldn't.