Not long ago, I once counseled a celebrity on-campus college kid who was about to finish university. He was getting more and more depressed and experiencing anxiety attacks. As his graduation drew near, he found himself getting angry, easily irritated, and feeling a drain in his self-confidence. I supposed that at that point in his college seniority, it was with an uncomfortable feeling that he looked back and wondered, is this for real? Have I traveled this far, and now exiting and starting anew?
I myself experienced depression too right after my university years way back. I guess that’s what happens when you’re a “celebrity” on campus! Or so I thought, since I smelled and tasted moments of victory and recognition in a field among my peers and beyond. So when it’s time to go, I knew exactly how it felt. At times, I felt relieved or happy about getting my diploma. Other times, I drew a blank. It was staggering to realize that some images, memories, or things will be taken away from you, and you know why.
Like other things in this life, school is not forever. You enter the real world after graduation. You begin to face the challenges of real life. I suppose most graduates are not coached, step by step, on how to transition from school to the real world of real life. Finishing school can be tedious and at once quite emotional. It awakens your senses to times ago. There can be countless career seminars, talks, and parties to prepare for graduation. But we can be hard put to find resources to directly address the hidden psychological, emotional issues of students way past school.
Denzel Washington, a famous actor in Hollywood, was commencement speaker at Dillard University in New Orleans. To the graduating class of 2015, he said, “Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to dream big. But dreams without goals ultimately fuel disappointment. You must have goals. Do what you feel passionate about. Don’t just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference. Put God first in everything you do. It has kept me humble. Everything I have is by the grace of God. Understand that — it is a gift.”