What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Graduating

The past month had been quite of a roller-coaster ride to me—which probably makes the most acceptable excuse to why I hadn’t been blogging lately. You see: people don’t really write on a moving roller coaster; they either find a grip, close their eyes, both, or give up and simply cry in half-excitement. In other words: trying to survive the ride. That’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to do: enjoying the unexpected happenstances—they might be inconvenient sometimes, but most of the time, they are also fun.

To make it short: 1) my study period in Singapore finally came to an end, 2) I completed all 117-page of my thesis, stood up for it against all criticism in the defense room, and passed the exam (!), 3) a think-tank whose philosophy lies in being the ‘intersection of environment and socio-economic development‘ hired me—a perfect first post so far, and consequently 4) Jakarta had to welcome me as one of its new residents.

All of these happened in less than 10 days, left me overwhelmed with all the sudden changes, and took me a while until I could look back in retrospect and say what I have to say here.


1. Education Is a Means to a Means…to an Endless Chain of Means

After four years of reading hundreds of journals and writing dozens of papers, of course, a celebration is in order. It is totally comprehensible to feel like you’ve passed a certain finish line after a long marathon called ‘undergraduate degree championship’. However, just like successful democracy is worth-celebrating but does not guarantee a prosperous society, so is your degree. By no means to be a party pooper, the moment you hurriedly walk (with your annoying heels) to the stage and receive your bachelor certificate marks no transition point to a new life phase whatsoever. The truth is, graduating is merely a process of a process of a process…which probably yields to an infinite number of processes. But it’s undeniably an awesome pause before you have to continue moving in a fast-forwarded track, for what it’s worth.

2. You’ll Go Back to the Bottom of the Pyramid

Commencement speeches can only encourage us into somehow believing in ourselves and taking opportunities. But beyond that, there is a more urgent news that people usually sweep under the rug: you’ll re-experience a familiar meritocratic-climbing process you once underwent in the college. I’m not saying that it sucks; on the contrary, I see it as a stimulating and enriching challenge after feeling stuck at campus-based organizations. You get to learn to be a subordinate again (with a hopefully nice supervisor), to follow instructions (instead of giving them to your juniors), to get confused and ask a lot of stupid questions (being a senior could be tiring because we’re supposed to know everything). It’s a humbling experience, and you’ll definitely learn something out of it.

3. The Word ‘Depression’ Now Comes with Flowers

I am not talking about deadlines—compared to this one, deadlines are toothless: wedding invitations! Someone you know from high school suddenly sends a pink envelope stamped with calligraphed ‘D & D’ to your office desk, emails with “THIS WEEKEND: YOU’RE INVITED” subject floods your inbox, or direct invitation through phone calls that are supposed to make you feel special but inevitably depressed. If not now, you’ll meet them soon—probably in 3-5 years. What I would love about my friends getting married, though, is the fact that I will have cute nieces and nephews :))

4. You’ll Get Distracted from Work

Some people would expect that, after graduation, they can cut themselves off secondary businesses and focus on developing a career. But no matter how hard you try, you’ll get distracted—for a lot of possible reasons. Childhood dreams (to write a book, to change the world into a better place), seemingly-irrelevant hobbies (building ship miniatures), other opportunities (part-time research assistant), or, you know, crushes (with someone you’re supposed to build a professional relationship with). From my very limited observation, though, these distractions actually worth time-investing more than the actual work deal. The truth is, regularity kills—not only physically because you spend a lot of energy to excel amongst your peers, but also emotionally when you don’t keep your mind producing new ideas and aspirations. So, my take: be distracted.

5. You’re Someone Else’s ‘Other Half’ Now

There is a huge difference between volunteering in an organization as a student and being a full-time employee who gets paid every month. The latter means that you are to spend 40 hours a week acting and thinking on behalf of your company’s interest. You will start introducing yourself as part of this larger industry, and be self-conscious about representing them in your speeches and daily conduct. In other words: almost half of your identity now links to who/what cause you work for. Hence, just like getting married: choose your ‘other half’ very, very wisely.

6. Your First Job Should Not Be Your Last One

Because, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll never know what you’re missing unless you try all of the options you have. It might be the most wanted job in the world, but I believe that life is more than just about settling down to ‘perfect’. Instead, us humans are equipped with the ability to go through our worst days and cherish the best ones. Fear not: listen to yourself and take your chances. Sooner or later, you will be thankful even for having chosen the ‘wrong path’—although the phrase itself does not make sense—all paths are meant to lead you somewhere. It’s just a matter of time until you see it.

P.S. You might want to close your perfect Sunday by reading An Ideal Coffee Shop Conversation. Good night.



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