This year as an Opinions writer, I have stayed firmly on the path of righteous anger and political debate. I have done this largely because it interests me, allows me to practice my writing and is a cathartic way to talk about the scary, frustrating ills of the world. Today, I want to go in a different direction. This is the last standard issue of The Miscellany News for the 2023 graduating class. It is an opportunity to applaud them and the hard work they have put in over the last four years. I know that the graduating class is going to get a great speech at Commencement. I know that they are all going to be inundated with stories and advice and love from their friends and families in the coming weeks. I also know that there is fear and apprehension filling more than a few minds as they prepare to leave the relatively safe testing grounds of Vassar. Take it from a non-traditional student—the nerves in the face of new experiences never really go away. But those butterflies are good, because they represent new choices, new paths that you will get to walk down and new lives you might live.
I’d like to offer some advice to this year’s class because I received some great advice when I left the military for Vassar: Life never follows the plan. Whatever plan you have worked out for the next five, 10 or 15 years? It’s going to change, and that is a good thing. Some of you will go off to graduate school and realize that you hate the work. You’ll tell yourself that you have to suck it up, that you spent too much time, too much energy and too much money on this education to walk away from it now. For some of you, that will be true. You’ll have to find ways to make a career more enjoyable, even though you hate it, at least in the beginning. But work changes. You may hate an entry-level position but realize you love the management level or the teaching level. You might go into corporate law and find your passion later in your first pro-bono case. It may be the opposite. Be flexible, because it might let you find whatever you’re really looking for. If that flexibility means leaving a career field, let it. Human beings are living way longer lives, and it is becoming more and more normal to have multiple career changes. I planned on spending 20 years in the military, and now I’m at a four-year college with plans for another three years of education after that.
That being said, remember to set boundaries in your life. You’ve spent most of your lives focused on giving your time and energy to other people. Through jobs, grades and family, you’ve placed a lot on your plates knowing that it will get you to the places you want to go. Don’t overdo it trying to get somewhere. It will be of no use to you to become a doctor if you have a nervous breakdown, two weeks into residency. Sometimes we have to let things go because holding onto them is causing more harm than good. That can be classes or ideals. It can also be people. Keep the people you love close, but not so close that they strangle you. It can hurt to walk away, to outgrow people you love, but it will happen. This will never get easier, but you will have to manage it and how it makes you feel. Moving on when it’s time will allow you to remember people with fondness and love instead of anger or resentment. I speak from experience—you can’t save everyone, and you can’t let them pull you down either.
Your futures are bright. By the time you got to this point, hundreds of people have believed in you at one point or another. On those days when you can’t believe in yourself, believe in them. Statistically, we can’t all be wrong. I know that you’ll all hear this repeatedly over the next month, but I’m proud of you. You are already great, and your greatness will continue to be unique to your path. Good luck to you all, and I hope you enjoy the journey.