Students from several different campus groups gathered in Circle Park Friday evening to mourn the unfortunate loss of a fellow UT student. The touching candlelight ceremony gave us the chance to send our prayers to the family left behind.
I had maintained my composer through the service. Until her father approached the microphone. I hadn’t expected him to speak. Truthfully, I didn’t even think her family would be there. I was touched by the amount of courage it must take to step in front of a crowd and speak under such circumstances. Needless to say, I could no longer hold my composer.
We listened to a mourning father share heart-wrenching words of grief. Each word brought more tears, but it was what he said last that will stick with me forever. He looked out at the group of young people, all gathered for his daughter, and said the only thing left he could say, “Don’t panic.”
He told us that his daughter hadn’t gotten into the graduate school she wanted. Then she had been waiting impatiently to hear from the others. She was stressed out and worried about her future. But he told us it doesn’t matter if we get into grad school next fall, or the following spring, or even the fall after that. It doesn’t matter. It’s ok if we don’t have our dream job the minute we’re out of college, or even five years later. It doesn’t matter.
As seniors, we are constantly, and annoying way too often, asked, “What’s next?” We feel embarrassed if we have to tell people that we don’t know. Not going to grad school or immediately having a “real” job is not failure. Take time to congratulate yourself on what you have accomplished. You are graduating college. That is a major life success. There is time to figure out what’s next.
His advice, though prompted by a terrible event, was an amazing message for college students of any age to hear. We often feel pressured to decide what we are doing with our lives in a very quick period of time. The reality is, not everyone will be set for life right after they’re handed their diploma. In fact, the majority won’t. But the best advice I’ve been given came from those two words. Don’t panic.
There is always time to work toward your dreams. And you will make it.