By Steve Tamayo

Why Everyone Panics at Graduation

grads at lastWhen the graduating class tosses their mortarboards into the air this month, some of us will feel the temptation to collect all the stray hats and sell them on eBay.  We aren’t cheap or greedy.  We’re unemployed.

But this isn’t why everyone panics as graduation approaches.

We entered our educational careers with every step mapped out for us.  Kindergarten led to Elementary School, which gave way to awkward Junior and awkwarder High Schools and eventually to College.  The road twisted and turned here and there, but graduation presents something new: a step with seemingly endless options … and risks.

But even this isn’t why everyone panics as graduation approaches.

Looming unemployment and endless risks may cause your heart to burn, but those don’t kindle the raging fires of panic we feel as graduation approaches.  That panic starts deeper.

We secretly believe that what we do defines who we are.

So, if we can’t find jobs, what does this say about us?  If our next step turns out to be a mistake, what does this say about us?  “Worthless, Failure, Disappointment.”  These labeling voices ring in our ears and stoke the fires of panic in our souls. 

But what if we found another way to define who we are?  Perhaps we could find a recession-proof way to stabilize our identity.  Perhaps we could see ourselves in a way that gives us security to take, rather than avoid, risks.  Perhaps we wouldn’t panic as graduation approaches.

This way of defining ourselves might be based on relating rather than doing.  Who we are with, not what we do, would define who we truly are.

Before I am a person who does things, I am a person in relationship.  I’m a son and a brother.  I’m with these people in a family tree (if not a kitchen table).  These are permanent relationships.  Secure and stable, though still prone to tension, brokenness and sin. 

And perhaps this is where God steps in: in Christ we become members of God’s secure and stable family.  A family more secure and more stable than any other family around. 

Through our ringing ears we hear “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”  The voices that cry out “Worthless, Failure, Disappointment” fade before the Father’s joyful “Accepted, Adopted, Mine!” 

God with us and we, truly, with him.

What would help us become people who deeply believe that who we are with defines who we truly are?  Do you think this would help you avoid graduation-panic?

Steve Tamayo serves students and staff in the sunny southern tip of Florida, where he hopes to see thriving witnessing communities in every corner of every campus.  He lives with his wife, son and two dogs: Amy, Will, Jiffy Lube and Cinco Tamayo and blogs at

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