A letter to a college graduate ten years ago

Published 4:57 pm Friday, May 20, 2022

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If you’ll all indulge me, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic this week. May 19 marked the 10th anniversary of my college graduation.

To many of you, that might not seem like a lot of time. But to me, it’s a whole decade! It’s the first ten years of being in “the real world” instead of being a student. No more homework for me. Just lots of bills and taxes instead!

I think it’s simply human nature for us to package up periods of time into neat little labels like “decades” and “quarter centuries” (et cetera and so forth), and then bestow some sort of importance on them. I’m no exception to that. So it’s been a whole, long decade since I walked away from my university with a fancy diploma in my hand, and I’m still very proud of the accomplishment.

This week I was thinking about what I would say to the Holly from ten years ago, who was very concerned and uncertain about the future. What would I say to reassure her about all the things that will happen in the upcoming decade? Here is a letter that I would send her if I could:

Dear Holly from May 2012,

Things have changed a lot since graduation. Perhaps, most importantly, you’ll never guess what you’re doing for a living now in 2022.

Remember how you loved writing but thought journalism probably wasn’t a very interesting career? Well, you were definitely wrong about that! You’ve spent the past five years keeping people informed about what’s going on in your home county as well as the surrounding area, documenting both the triumphs and tragedies of the people around here. And you hope to continue to do so for a long time to come.

(You’ll also be pleased to know that people have stopped asking you if you’re going to be a teacher since you have an English degree. Maybe that’s because you carry a camera and a recorder around all the time now!)

Remember how upset you were when all your closest friends were planning to move far, far away (even as far as Japan) after graduation, but you were planning to return home to Northampton County?

Don’t worry, you’ve made the right decision. Moving home has given you the opportunity to spend more time with your family, and allowed you to put down roots that are now thriving. Inevitably, you’ve grown apart from some of those old friends, but some have continued to keep in touch all these years. And you’ve even met some great new friends over the years too. People come and people go, and you just have to cherish whatever time you have with them.

There are so many different things you’re going to do in ten years’ time.

You fly on an airplane by yourself for the first time in 2014. It’s long and exhausting and you feel insane after almost 24 hours of no sleep while traveling, but the trip is definitely worth it.

You get really invested in gardening again, something I know you used to complain about doing when you were a kid. Trust me, the work only gets more satisfying as you figure out how to cook everything you grow. (You’re still sort of a mediocre cook but it’s a work in progress!)

You accidentally bang up your car in 2016, and have to navigate the process of buying a new one. You’re still a creature of habit though, and end up buying the exact same make and model car in the same color as before.

You decide to change your hairstyle and get rid of your bangs, and it looks so much better than it did when you were younger. (I forgive you for your previous dreadful styling choices, young Holly. We all make mistakes.)

Despite all this, plenty of things remain the same too. You still get the opportunity to enjoy your favorite TV shows and books and movies and music. Just because you’re older, it doesn’t mean that these things can’t still evoke the same emotions as they did when you were younger. Embrace that and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

A word of warning: don’t get your hopes up about any championships for NC State’s men’s basketball team. But they’re still going to be fun to watch… in most years.

Lastly, remember the little oak sapling you received at college graduation? That little gift to all graduates of Elon University meant to metaphorically symbolize putting down roots and establishing yourself out in the world? Don’t worry. The little oak is now about three times taller than I am and full of healthy green leaves. Its branches stretch out farther and farther each year. Like you, it’s had an off year every now and then, and had to weather some adverse conditions, but it’s doing just fine. And so are you.

Sincerely, Holly from May 2022

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.