I have been out of college now for almost two years. Two years! That’s 730 days. Who knew in that amount of time my life would change as much as it has? That I would grow as much as I have? I can’t help but think of how my life got to where it is. If I knew then what I know now would it be different or would I be exactly where I am?

I had asked some friends this same question to get a feel for what people my age gained from college and what we wish we knew back then. We came to the simplest conclusion – that schooling gave us a well-grounded knowledge in our particular fields of interest, but internships put that knowledge in a usable form.

A more in-depth conclusion was that before you can be happy with life, you have to be happy with yourself. This is more about growing as a person, maturing, and being an adult. It is important to have learned this in college because happiness makes the experience so much more exquisite.

A great rule of thumb that we stumbled upon was you shouldn’t be in a hurry to get everything accomplished. This was more related to how it’s important to focus on the course work and putting that learning into some useful perspective as opposed to just getting your work completed so you could get a grade. And simply thinking “I can’t wait until I’ve graduated and have a full-time job,” as most college students do, is typical, but we’ve learned there is no need to rush the college experience.

A big realization for me is obvious: Life doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. While I was in college, I pictured the “American dream” when I finished: wonderful job, marriage, house, and 2.5 children. I thought it would be so easy to come by and that it would just happen. I pictured that I would have my dream job right out of college. Instead, I learned I needed to gain more experience and work from the bottom up. I wish I knew then that life is unpredictable, and when it doesn’t work the way I want it to, I should never get down on myself because wrong turns led me here to the right place. 

Not knowing then what I know now gave me experience and strength. I am independent and young. The world is at the tip of my fingers and everything that happens in my life is at my discretion. I get to make the choices I want and learn as I go. I get to keep improving my life and discover that it gets better every day.

The beauty of this life is that I am a lifelong learner, so in five years I’ll likely say, “I wish I knew then what I know now…”