You knew what you were leaving behind. You knew as you packed up your memories into a few empty beer boxes laying around your tiny apartment. You knew as you last hugged the people you spent every minute of the last four years with extra tight and tried to convince yourselves that nothing would change. You knew at that last cheers. You knew at that last moment you were all together. You knew as you turned in your keys, got into your jam-packed little car and drove away from the place that had become a home to you.
The remarkable truth about each unique stage of life is that it's really not about what you leave behind at all; it's about what you take with you.
1. Friendships that will last a lifetime. They're the people you will dance with at your wedding and take presents to when they invite you to their toddler's moon bounce birthday party.
2. I'm serious. These are the friends who had to pick you up off the bathroom floor and wash the nacho cheese off your face. These are the friends who saw you at your absolute worst and still decided you were pretty awesome. These are the friends who grew with you as your ideas and personality truly started to develop into that of a unique human-being. These are the friends you couldn't forget if you tried, and you take that with you.
3. An appreciation for the little things.
4. Budgeting skills. You learned to live on the quarters you saved for laundry and Easy Mac.
5. The ability to exceed your own expectations. The motivation to push yourself to be more.
6. An appreciation for teamwork. And an ability to make your own little teams wherever you venture in the professional world.
7. Stories that will never cease to make you and your friends laugh. So hard, in fact, your stomachs hurt and words can barely find their way out of your mouths.
8. The talent that it takes to pull an all-nighter writing a term paper... and then still stay out to 3 a.m. the next night in celebration of such a feat.
9. The sense of confidence that only comes from experiencing your own hilariously pathetic mistakes.
10. The strength to stand alone and thrive independently.
11. The comfort of knowing that you packed up and left all that you knew once before. You know, when your parents dropped your skinny butt off to awkwardly unpack in your dorm room with a total stranger. If you could do it when you were 18, you know you can do it now, too.
12. Connections that will never cease to benefit you.
13. A seemingly random, but incredibly diverse range of knowledge.
14. Entertaining skills obtained through the creation of random games and ways to spend your copious free time.
15. The ability to nap while waiting on line. I imagine this will come in handy one day.
16. Listening and learning skills. If you can master a three-hour lecture, you can sit through an quarterly earnings meeting like a champ.
17. Management skills. Gained from trying to manage clubs, teams and extracurricular activities alongside a bunch of your equally degenerate peers.
18. A relationship. Or the experience of one that gave you an insane insight into what it's like to meet someone from a different place and be able to create a world together in your collegiate escapades.
19. The young and crazy glow in a person's eyes as they stare at you through the smoke of that little bar and find that they're falling madly in love with you.
20. An appreciation for the fact that you'll now be living somewhere that rarely undergoes the risk of total Friday night destruction.
21. An understanding that you can't plan for every part of your life. You watched yourself switch majors or directions probably more than once during your secondary education, and that's OK. That's OK because you'll probably have to switch professions and career direction too one day. You'll at some point have to dramatically change something during your professional and personal adult life. You'll have to adjust. That's life, and college taught you that from the beginning. Conquering adversity and accepting change is key to success in this world.
23. A sports fandom that will inevitably be spread to your children and every single person who accidentally asks you what school you root for every season.
23. A life-long sense of pride and one that you can genuinely bond with strangers over almost instantly.
24. Memories. So many memories. You'll remember the professors who made you think, the friends who made you feel like you were a part of a family, the nights that inspired stories of laughter for years to come, the late-night pizzas, the football games, the messes, the kisses, the "A" on your paper you spent all night writing, the clubs, the adventures, the teams, the college-town quirks, the inside jokes and the moments you felt infinite, young and alive.
Those moments won't end. You are still young and alive, and the possibilities you have now to achieve greatness are continually infinite. So, think not of what you see in that dirty rearview mirror as you drive away. Think about what you keep still in your heart and mind, and look ahead, because now you get to dive into an enchanted and fascinating world you've earned entry into, the future.
For more, check out my personal blog at SerendipityandCreativity.com.