Graduation season is  now over. The caps, gowns, and the monotonous tones of “Pomp and Circumstance” have faded into the distant past. The tassels turned with pride are in an unknown location in a closet or box. For many graduates, the surprises that lurked in the shadows of their regalia have proved more worrisome and challenging than any pop quiz or paper. For some, this spring marked the end of their education. They now face an even more daunting challenge than taking calculus or physics.

I (Luke) graduated in May. I have reached the end of my educational journey (at least that’s what my wife tells me!). However, I received a surprise once I graduated. It was not a new car. It was not a job in my field of study. It was not the announcement of a child (much to the disappointment of family). Rather, I received a surprising visitor. The surprise: I missed school! For some reading this, you might think, “This guy is crazy! Why would anyone like school?” Please let me explain.

School is safe. School assignments are often pretty clear. Syllabi are given to provide a clear picture of what assignments are due, how they should be done, and when they are due. Life is not always clear about what is due, how it should be done, or when it is due. Sure, bills will have due dates and work projects have deadlines. However, school is still pretty safe.

School provided relatively little risk. Sure, I could fail a class. I might change my major. I (or my parents during college) might have to pay a little bit more or take out some more loans. But, life beyond school is more expansive and expensive. Each decision in life carries varying levels of risks and often have long-term implications. Losing a job means that bills may go unpaid. A doctor’s visit may mean that one is adding a member to a family or that a family member may soon pass away. Life can change quickly and without prior notice.

I worked part-time while a student in college and during graduate school. I worked full-time (40+ hours) my last two-years as a Master’s student. I knew what work was and had paid bills but something was different. There was no longer a part of my life that was predictable and allowed me to measure productivity. I now had “free time” outside of work that was not planned. I was not told how I should use it or what I should do. This realization proved to be one of the most challenges aspects for me over the last few months. Let me provide some advice and encouragement for recent graduates (like myself) and friends and family of graduates:

Graduates, don’t be surprised if you begin to feel uncomfortable in life and suddenly long for school. It may be that you long for the safety, security, and structure that school provides. More school may be a good next step in the future but examine your motives for continuing your education. It may be that you long for safety and security but are looking for them in the wrong place. Seek the counsel of others and listen to them, even when you don’t like what you hear.

Friends and family of graduates, extend abundant grace, be patient, offer a listening ear, and share encouraging but challenging words. Your graduate is learning what life beyond being a student is like. For some, they have not known this feeling since being potty trained. The rules and social expectations have changed for them over the last decade or more. They may struggle with who they are, what they are good at, how to do what you think is a ‘simple’ task, but they are embarking on a different kind of education and this one does not come with a syllabus. Love and listen to them because they may be more scared and uncertain than you realize or they let on. It may be a simple question to them, “How can I best love and support you during this transition?”