You're 43 days away from graduating college, and you're scared sh*tless. I've been there, done that and gotten the overpriced diploma to prove it. Despite a couple of glasses of champagne before the ceremony, one very dark spray tan and platform heels so high they practically begged me to trip and fall, I survived graduation day. I know you can, too.
If you're anything like me, you've already been thinking about every possible way one of the biggest days of your life could go wrong. You could have a wardrobe malfunction. You could only take hideous photos (the horror), or you could sweat off all your makeup by the time the ceremony is over.
On the other hand, everything could go perfectly. Imagine that: You should start getting that idea into your head because if you start putting that bad energy out into the universe, you're just asking for one of the aforementioned incidents to take place and ruin your entire day.
As you get caught up in all the excitement and frenzy that graduation day brings, force yourself to take a deep breath and remember the importance of this day. Never again will you be setting foot on this stage, or at your university as an undergraduate student.
At this particular moment, you have reached the peak of the mountain that's been your college journey. You are no longer the awkward 18-year-old who first stepped foot on campus. You've officially made it.
Despite the excitement that comes with graduation, you're still freaking out, deep inside. But that's OK. Move past the butterflies dancing around in your stomach, and remember these key pieces of advice:
1. Thank your parents.
Even though graduation is a huge event for you, it's just as big for them. They've put you through 17 years of school. They've helped you with the math homework they never really understood themselves. They've listened to you bitch and moan about the teacher you couldn't stand, and they've comforted you after a less than stellar performance on a science test.
You wouldn't be on that stage without them, so don't forget to tell them that.
2. You don't need to have all the answers right now.
There's a lot of pressure surrounding graduation. You're sick of responding to the "post-grad plans" question, and you're sick of feeling stressed all the time.
It's OK to not have the answers right now. I'm almost a year out of college, and I still don't have the answers. Neither does the majority of my former classmates. I know it can feel like you need to write your life story here and now, but remember that it's OK to be stuck on the opening paragraph.
3. You will never have this moment again. Enjoy it.
Overanalyze your hair, nails and outfit all you want. But don't forget to be present on graduation day. As you walk to your seat – hand-in-hand with your best friend – take a moment to look at your surroundings.
The place you've called home for the past four years, the family and friends who have supported you along the way and the campus that's filled with the memories of perhaps the most transformative time of your life are all coming together in this moment. Take it all in, reminisce and enjoy this day that you've worked hard to reach.
4. You are strong, you are capable and you are ready for the real world.
Most of us feel far from ready on graduation day. Sure, we've kissed our teenage years goodbye. We've traded in our fake IDs for the real deal. But despite all our physical displays of maturity, we're still considered young in the eyes of the world.
Age neither defines capability nor diminishes it. So go out there and show the world what 22-year-olds are made of.
5. Graduation is the end of one chapter, and the beginning of a new one.
Up until this point in your life, you've always known your next step. After seventh grade, you move to the eighth. After high school, you go to college. However, you've now reached the end of this predetermined journey. Now, the options are endless.
Not to be obnoxiously cliched, but the world truly is your oyster. You can make it whatever you want.
Whether that next step involves jumping into the working world, traveling through Europe with your best friend or moving home with your parents, know that the decision is yours. Whatever you decide will be perfect.
Well, college seniors: You're almost there. You've practically made it to graduation. At this point, every event is another addition in a series of lasts: your last college presentation, your last Thirsty Thursday at the local dive bar, your last all-nighter spent writing a paper you put off for way too long and your last formal event where you're dancing alongside all your friends and shouting to the latest Justin Bieber single.
It's emotional, it's exciting and it's terrifying. You've worked so hard to be able to experience this moment, and you can hardly believe it's already here. While your countdowns have been set and in full effect for a while now, I challenge you to slow down and enjoy the final days of college life.
While the real world is pretty freaking awesome, it's even more emotional, exciting and terrifying than your undergraduate years. So, have your "I have no idea what I'm doing with my life" and your "I'm going to fail my final project" freak outs. But at the end of the day, know that graduating college is an amazing accomplishment.
Don't let the real-world anxiety keep you from remembering that. Congratulations, class of 2016. Time to close the book on your college years. Get ready to own the rest of your life.