Graduates, you are young again.
You are now, once again, at the very bottom, looking up.
When I was 22, for my entire life until that point, I’d been “at the top.” Skipping grades in elementary school, older than my friends, AP high school classes, varsity athlete, the oldest sibling, project leader in college classes, supervisor at my campus job, Dean’s List. You get the idea. Most of you are probably like me.
When you enter the “real world”, the working world, post-graduate life… being “at the top” is no more. You’re the youngest person around. You don’t really know anything. You haven’t really done anything. At your first job, you’ll see people in their late 20’s, their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond. They’ll tease you when they talk about random 80’s sitcoms that you’ve never heard of. I’m 25 now, and I’m still the youngest person around – and I work at videogame company, no less.
And that – being young – is awesome.
There. Is. Nothing. Better.
There’s nothing you can’t do. There’s nothing your company can’t teach you. There isn’t a skill you can’t learn. There isn’t a career track you can’t start.
You can make any sort of mistake imaginable, and it will be fine because you’re young it’s probably your first one. Your bosses will bring you into every meeting, because you’re young and it’s time for you to learn. You’ll be given the option to learn different things at your company to see what you want to do. You can quit at any time and get lost in Europe and still have time to get your career back on track when you return.
Every situation is different. Different Gauchos have different lives after they leave Santa Barbara, but there is no denying how advantageous – and how scary – being young can be.
Since I graduated three years ago, I’ve lived in three different cities and have had three wildly different jobs, but in each step of the journey, I’ve realized how beneficial and powerful youth can be.
Here’s an example: in 2011, I quit the job I initially moved to NYC for. I had nothing else lined up, since I thought I could find another job easily (another side-effect of youth: stupidity). To pay rent, I worked as a bus boy at a luxury restaurant in Midtown, and slept on an air-bed in order to save money for my employment search efforts. I lived in a small studio apartment in Harlem, and, when I couldn’t get my hands on free food at the restaurant, my meals consisted of eggs, bread and cheese in various forms.
Never before have I had more freedom. Never have I had more paths available to me. Any direction I wanted to go, I could go. No obligations. Any career I wanted to start, I could start it.
My youth afforded me opportunities I’d never otherwise find. I had coffee with high-powered and influential tech entrepreneurs and advertising visionaries, all for the sake of “learning.” I snuck into the NYU library and sat in on some classes to help with my job search. I interviewed for a bunch of different types of jobs, just to see if there was a spark of interest, and they all took me seriously because I’m young with little experience.
I dropped everything and went on a weeklong road-trip with my Dad, who was visiting the Northeast for the first time. How many 35-year-old people can do that? I can’t even do that now!
I tried different things, met different people, learned new skills, found out what kind of work I’d like to do, experienced what kind of work I do not want to do, I restarted my career, I erased some chapters of my life and started a new one.
I was able to do all of this because I was young. How many 35-year-old people can do all of that?
And – get this – that’s just one rung of the ladder! Just one step in a long journey. One little tiny blip in the 60 years we have left on this world. Can you believe that? You, me – we’re just getting started.
Graduates, receiving your diploma is not “the end.” You haven’t “finished.” You’re not at “the end of the road.” You’re just getting going.
You’re about to embark on a long, chaotic and swerving adventure. But, just remember, take advantage of your youth, realize the opportunities that it grants you, and you can do anything.
Cody Corona is a Marketing Coordinator at Rockstar Games, a leading developer, marketer and publisher of interactive entertainment for consumers around the globe. Previously, Cody helped lead integrated advertising campaigns for Old Spice and Denny’s restaurants. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2010 and currently lives in New York City.