By Jack Edgar ’15
Life is weird. No one has the answers. Hug the friends you make along the way.
I graduated from William & Mary in 2015, which somehow puts me on the back half of my Young Guarde experience. The fact that I graduated over 6 years ago now feels completely insane. How could I have been out of college for longer than I was in college? To be closer to 30 than closer to my college years? Everyone will say that they met their friends for life at William & Mary, and that rings true for me as well. I have the best friends in the world and I owe it all to that place (they’re probably better than your friends, but we don’t have to have that debate). What they don’t tell you, though, is that this gift is a double-edged sword; one day you’ll look up at your friends – feeling as though no time has passed – and realize that it actually just feels that way. Time moves alarmingly fast, as it turns out (My friends don’t look old. This is just a metaphor).
I wanted to compare where I am now in my life with where I thought I’d be. But the truth of the matter is, I had no idea what life after college would look like for me. I was always a high achiever in school – “most likely to succeed”, etc. – but the achievement, the destination, the endpoint, was always a college degree. I don’t know why. I think making it past that threshold of adulthood always felt like the right destination. For someone who carried so much stress and pressure around, and dove headfirst into everything he did, thinking any further out felt too difficult to comprehend. I always figured that the next assignment for me to tackle would come, the same way that it always had in my incredibly linear life. After elementary school, you achieve in middle school. And then, high school, and finally, on to higher education! And so as graduation neared, I found myself realizing that no one was going to chart the next course for me, but me. And that was a terrifying proposition.
And so I charted a course. But, I didn’t go very far. My first job out of college was spent advancing a place that had already given me so much. I worked for William & Mary in Alumni Engagement, contributing to the university’s For the Bold campaign, all while wondering when I would be bold enough to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I found the next step in my career through a William & Mary friend, and it was the skills learned at that new job that prepared me for my role at my current agency. Embarrassingly recently, something clicked for me: I was already living my life. I was looking for another endpoint to work towards, but college was never an endpoint at all. It was the starting line.
This summer I was able to travel a bit to see some close college friends that the pandemic had robbed me of seeing for some time. I was thinking about the post-college journey that we all had been on since walking across that stage together. Taken at a birdseye view, it looks completely chaotic: there have been new jobs, career changes, cross-country moves, break-ups and engagements, marriages and divorces, new schools, illness and the loss of loved ones. And suddenly no one’s post-college life looked especially linear – no one had accurately charted their entire life. But one True North for each of us had been us – the William & Mary friends who push, console, connect, and laugh with us. And looking at each of my friends, we’re in the best places of our lives thus far (global pandemic notwithstanding). It didn’t happen when we were handed the diploma, and it didn’t happen all at once, but I’m proud of all my friends and me for the path that has taken us here, and the paths we have yet to embark on.
I spent a little time after I graduated wondering if I had missed out on some secret tool that everyone else had found at college, some instrument that equipped them to crack the code and do life right. In hindsight, that was simply the desire of a task-oriented, Type-A personality, searching for direction in a post-college world that can both look and get pretty foggy. But William & Mary actually had set me up for life. Yes, I feel like I learned how to learn there, preparing me for whatever direction my future takes. But probably more importantly, it gave me the friends that I could look up at – in between the starts and stops of this nonlinear journey through life – feeling like no time has passed, but proud of the time that has.
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