Why graduating is the start not the end

I recently hit a milestone that many people reach when they’re quite young. Can you guess what it was? I got my drivers license.

Now what took me so long and how I finally did it that’s another story. But for now what I want to share is the way that reaching our milestones or goals can be kind of underwhelming. The day I actually passed my driving test I didn’t feel excited or elated. I felt kind of numb. Surprised I guess and a bit tired. Certainly relieved, relieved that I will no longer need lessons, relieve that getting my license could finally be crossed off my To Do list. But not excited.

It kinda perplexed me until I later reflected and realised that in fact I’d had 20 years of my adult life as a non-driver and only a couple of days as a driver. The identity is new and it might take a little while for it to feel familiar and comfortable or even real.

Not only that but when we’ve been working hard to achieve something and we finally get there Instead of feeling a rush of joy we can just notice the absence of the hard slog. And that we need a little rest.

In a sense when we pass the test, graduate from the course or whatever the thing is we’ve been aiming for we realise that it isn’t the pinnacle, it isn’t the end. We realise that we are at a new point of beginning.

My journey with driving doesn’t stop now that I have my license. Is the start of a new learning experience, polishing some of the skills I still find tricky: how to drive alone, driving at a different speed, night driving in different weather conditions, learning to navigate while on the move, and many more.

Similarly when where re-training prior to a career transition we can become so focused on gaining the qualification that when we get there we can be shocked to realise rather than being finished we are actually right at the start.

We still have to learn how to demonstrate our skills and land our first job, how to network, how to do ongoing learning, how to reflect on our practice. We need to learn how to make ourselves visible to peers and potential employers, or even how to start our own business. These are not small things, and they need energy and focus just like studying did.

So if you have just finished a milestone or are getting to one, be kind to yourself! Celebrate. Have a little rest. Get ready for the next stage of the journey.