Message to the Class of 2009

Illustration for article titled Message to the Class of 2009

It hit me yesterday that as of Saturday it will be two years since I’ve graduated from Howard University.


I immediately started thinking about everything I haven’t accomplished since that day, but I quickly snapped out of it and instead searched for an email that included the commencement speech Oprah Winfrey delivered at my graduation.

At the time, I was more concerned with whether or not being in the vicinity of Oprah would instantly improve my credit score, but in hindsight, the Queen of the Universe offered some sound advice that applies to everyone earning their degrees throughout the month.

One of my favorite portions of her speech:

“Have no fear. God has got your back. And sometimes, sometimes you find out what you are supposed to be doing by doing the things you are not supposed to do. So don't expect the perfect job that defines your life's work to come along next week. If that happens, take the blessing and run with it. But, if not, be grateful to be on the path where you eventually want to live.”

I wish I had paid closer attention to this advice when I first heard it, because I punished myself for not immediately leading the life I anticipated to live following graduation.

To that end, I offer this line of advice to the class of 2009: Don’t beat yourself up, it will get better.


It’s probably best that you don’t look to your first job as something that defines your career – there aren’t that many jobs available anyway.

Although there is word of positions that may be open to you, for the most part major companies continue to have massive layoffs.


It’s a scary feeling graduating in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, but embrace the phrase “this too shall pass” and know that all of the hard work you put in to earn your degree will not go in vain as long as you continue to fight for your dreams.

I won’t lie to you: It gets hard; harder than you ever imagined it to be. There were days where I felt overwhelmed. Honestly, there are still many days I still have that feeling.


There will be times when you debate whether or not it was all worth it. That’s fine. Those feelings of doubt and insecurity are normal.

You may have to face naysayers who will be quick to quip that they “told you so,” and will encourage you to do things you know aren’t right for you.


Ignore them. Misery loves company, but trust me when I say that room doesn’t need anymore people in it. Listen to Oprah. She’s not just one big free chicken coupon provider, she’s one of the world’s biggest success stories. She knows of what she speaks.

In two years I have done things I used to think were beneath me, but one learns to suck it up if it’s for the greater good. There have been instances where I’ve broken down and felt defeated. I had to remind myself that I am young and this is only the beginning.


Like Melissa Harris Lacewell, I am sorry that you’re graduating in such a rocky period, but people have gone through worse and survived. As will each of you.

Yes it might suck for a while. You will certainly get stressed out. Your happiness may come a bit later than you thought it would.


But take it in stride. I used to turn on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Stressed Out” and sulk about everything I wasn’t doing.

Now I finally give myself credit for the things that I have done. I don’t worry about the things that I don’t have yet – I just accept that slowly but surely I am progressing.


I find solace in people contacting me about the things I write, telling me I either moved them with my honesty, or helped make their day go by a little easier with a quick laugh.

That keeps me going. Find whatever it is that does the same for you and hold on it it. You will need it.


Be proud of yourself and all that you’ve accomplished thus far. It will get better. It has to.

Good luck.

Got post grad plans? Share them with me at

Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.