The Road Less Traveled: A Fresh Graduate’s Guide to Embracing Vocation

Welcome to the graduation season, a time of immense joy, and yes, an abundance of selfies! If you’ve recently donned the mortarboard, you’re likely feeling a heady mix of thrill and terror, with one question echoing around your mind: “What happens next?”

This question is an Everest of significance, packed with personal aspirations and the expectations of your loved ones. It’s also the starting point of two divergent paths that society often suggests to fresh grads.

One voice whispers, “Live it up!” encouraging you to embrace freedom, wander, and enjoy your youth before life’s responsibilities inevitably weigh you down. The other voice urges, “Figure it out!” instilling a sense of urgency to establish yourself, or risk ‘failing’ at adulthood.

The dichotomy between these two messages leads to a twilight zone—a sort of suspended adulthood—where you’re urged to hang on to the carefree days of youth while rushing headlong into ‘serious’ adult life. However, both paths present misconceptions. Postponing ‘real’ adulthood for a season of wild exploration is often a procrastination strategy while racing to tick off the checkboxes of success can result in a recipe for disillusionment.

Instead of wavering between ‘living it up’ and ‘figuring it out’, consider walking the path of vocation—a more fulfilling journey post-college.

The Path of Vocation: A New Direction for Post-College Life

Vocation, or the divine calling on your life, encapsulates not just a career, but your spirituality, family, community engagement, and church life. It’s about being purposeful and hopeful, even when life’s jigsaw puzzle remains incomplete. Consider hope, purpose, and meaning as the tripod that supports your life after college.

Hope: In the words of George Meredith, “To hope, and not be impatient, is really to believe”. This couldn’t be truer for your post-college life where patience is paramount. Hope, as described in Hebrews 6:19, serves as an anchor for the soul. It steadies you as you chart your life’s course, allowing your dreams and expectations to unfurl at their own pace.

Purpose: Remember, your post-college years are not just an antechamber for ‘real’ life; they are real life. Although your dreams may not be realized instantly, this period is ripe with purpose—it’s a time for you to nurture essential aspects of a fruitful life.

Meaning: Annie Dillard once said, “How we spend our days is . . . how we spend our lives.” Each day in your post-college life is impactful and shapes you. Invest your time and energy wisely—it’s better to take intentional steps than to let life happen to you.

Hope, purpose, and meaning—these are the three gifts that accompany your hard-earned diploma. They don’t promise a life devoid of fear or anxiety, but they equip you to take the next faithful step. The path of vocation isn’t a destination but a process—it involves consistent commitment, what Eugene Peterson calls a “long obedience” in the same direction. So, here are some pointers to help you thrive on the path of vocation:

Be Present and Prepared: In your twenties, it’s crucial to strike a balance between living in the present and preparing for the future. Being fully engaged in the present often turns out to be the best preparation for what lies ahead.

Participate Actively: Life has its ups and downs, but don’t withdraw when times are tough. Embrace every aspect of life—spirituality, work, church, family, community—with an active, committed spirit.

Live a Life that Matters: Cultivate awareness of the world around you, recognizing your role in God’s work of restoration and redemption, even in the smallest of ways.

Embrace Freedom Over Fear: Post-college life can be daunting, and it’s easy to get bogged down by the fear of making mistakes. But remember, Christ’s freedom extends to our vocation. Embrace it, for He is with you.