It blows my mind that I was in your shoes SIX years ago. Honestly, I feel like it was just last week. Whoever said, “Don’t blink!” was right. Life happens when you’re busy worrying about the future and before you know it, you’re in “the future.”

I remember the transition from high school to college being easy. Sure, we move out of our parent’s home, navigate dorm life and a weird schedule with built in nap times. (Some of us even enrolled in the how-to-party-hard-without-natural-consequences course.) However, for the most part going from high school to college is fun and low-risk.

On the other hand, my transition from college into the “real” world was not so easy. After graduating, I began the job search and wanted to move out to the west coast, but had a serious boyfriend (who did eventually become my husband) and wasn’t sure where I was supposed to be or which job was the right job for me. I needed to make decisions about my life, yet I felt ill-prepared to make them.

It was a surreal time trying to make a good impression, negotiating a salary, living alone, and feeling like a queen each time I ordered take-out. That is, until I realized I couldn’t spend $20 on myself for dinner every single night.

I had to call my mom for everything. Do whites get washed in cold water or hot? Does bread go in the fridge? Am I getting fired for sending this email? Can you make every decision for me? When is nap time?

Some of my friends moved far away, some accepted jobs they loved while others were beginning a job they could already tell was a bust. Some were getting engaged and married, while others were uninterested in settling down. Some took greek life into local dive bars, staying out till wee hours of the morning, while others were in bed by 9pm.

I was no longer a college athlete and therefore, had no coach telling me what time to show up for workouts or reminding me to get enough sleep and eat well. How do people build time for working out into their schedule? I wondered.

There’s no other way for me to describe my transition out of college other than: weird. But enough about me! This is a letter to you.

I am so proud of you. You made it; surviving the all-nighters, exams, parties, and more. You get to make your debut into the world and I’m sure you’re feeling excited, anxious, ready, and maybe you want to hide under the covers for just a bit longer.

That’s NORMAL.

I spent time with college seniors earlier this week, who are probably a lot like you. We had a sort of “Q&A” session. I told them I was an open book and to hold nothing back, which led to a beautifully vulnerable conversation where I shared any trace of wisdom I have while assuring them that none of us have this thing, called life, figured out.

Here are five questions they asked me and my two-cents:

Q: What advice would you give your 21-year-old, graduating college self?

Don’t try to do it all. Slow down. Don’t spend every day longing to be where that chick on Instagram (who’s years older than you) is. Embrace the present. You will never have more freedom than you do right now in this season. Create boundaries and don’t feel selfish for doing so. Give yourself tons of grace, and dish it out for others too. All in all, don’t buy the lie that you’re supposed to have your life totally figured out.

Q: How did you build a strong community once you transitioned into “real life”?

Introducing myself to my new neighbors, getting plugged into a church, going to workout classes and other places to meet likeminded potential friends. It helps to hold longtime friendships loosely because everyone’s going down new paths and some friends are only meant for a season. Don’t miss out on the incredible relationships that are meant for your life right now because you’re too busy trying to stay in touch and visit all of your college friends. The people who are meant to be in your life will always be in your life no matter how much time passes or life circumstances change.

Q: What boundaries should I put into place as I navigate this big life change?

Block out time for yourself to simply be and breathe. Seriously, create “me” dates and don’t cancel on yourself. Overcommitting and over scheduling won’t serve you in the long haul. They will only lead to burnout and resentment. Implement boundaries with your social media, Netflix, and anything else that might otherwise consume your precious time and be an escape from the wonderful life happening right before your eyes.

Q: How do you connect with God?

Playing with a child, working out, sharing a meal with friends, having quality conversations, and paying attention to/being surrounded by beauty. Everyone connects with God through their own unique way… don’t go through the motions or pretend when it comes to your spiritual life. Do you no matter what anyone else thinks. (Spoiler alert: they aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are!)

Q: Is it normal to have doubts and struggles toward the end of my engagement?

Getting married is a big deal, so in short: yes, I believe it’s normal. Engagement isn’t about planning a wedding, it’s about learning to engage all areas of your life in harmony with another human. Navigating this is tough for most people, so I believe doubts and struggles are “normal,” however, keep in mind – there is no need to rush into anything. It’s better to postpone than to proceed and regret.

I hope in some way that this letter encourages you and makes you feel less lonely. Everything is changing, including you. Welcome the shedding of old layers and smile as you reveal more of your evolving self each day.

PS. I’ve now been married almost 4 years and I still call my mom everyday. 😉

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Manda's weekly letters on faith, marriage, motherhood, soul care, social justice - and occasionally the collision of it all. 

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