Graduation letters: W. David Wakefield


Illustration by Brandon Sarmiento

W. David Wakefield

W. David Wakefield, Ph.D., is the chair of the child and adolescent development department at the college of health and human development. You can learn more about him here.

Dear younger self,

Congratulations on earning a university degree! This is a huge milestone, and should never be downplayed. You should be proud of this accomplishment and everything that you have achieved and navigated thus far. Participate in and enjoy the upcoming graduation ceremonies and receptions. It will not only be meaningful for you, but highly significant for your family, friends and loved ones. As you embark on your next chapter, here are a few things I wish I could have told you:

  • Do not get caught up in the business of comparing yourself to others: It is too easy to look around and feel as if everyone around you has it all figured out. Yet, the truth is, everyone is narrating and curating their own story each day. Focus on your own path, what brings you fulfillment, and trust that you are going to get where you need to be. There is no marker on where you need to be at a certain time or age – trust me on this one!
  • Embrace ambiguity and uncertainty: You may not know exactly what you want to do with your life right now, and that is perfectly okay. Believe it or not, this can actually be a great state of mind to be in! Be open to trying new things and exploring different paths and opportunities, as you never know where they may lead you.
  • Mom and dad always said, “Health is number one” and boy were they right! Continue to take care of your physical and mental health, and always listen to what your body is telling you. Moreover, never be afraid to seek help from family, friends and professionals if you’re struggling with your mental health.
  • You have made some amazing connections with some fantastic people here! Make a concerted effort to keep in touch with your friends, professors, advisors and mentors in authentic ways. Lean on them for support and advice throughout your journeys ahead.
  • Continue to challenge yourself and take risks. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and don’t let imposter syndrome ever “jam you up.” Always believe that you belong in professional arenas and recognize that you always have something you can offer those around you! And, realize that the “growth mindset” term everyone has been talking about is real! Don’t let a boss, supervisor or coworker trick you into thinking your skills or ability level are set in stone – with time, effort and focus, they can and will improve!

Finally, remember that phrase that dad always liked to say when times were hard, “Just keep on keeping on!” Put that phrase in the vault. Always remember that you are capable, resilient and worthy of reaching your goals. Undoubtedly, there will be curveballs thrown your way, but all that you need to do when this happens is keep pushing forward. In fact, be open to the idea that sometimes you may find a new and better route to your next destination because of an unexpected challenge!

Best wishes,
Your future self