By Freddie Moore

For recent graduates, entering a world without school can be both exciting and petrifying. You’ve probably never known a life without grades, teachers and summer vacations, but here you are. There’s no need to sweat it, though, because these same difficulties were successfully overcome by previous generations.

To give you the courage to do the same, here are a few quotes from some of our favorite writers. Even the greatest writers of our time had to face uncertainty and had their own way of spinning it into a course of discovery. Just see for yourself:

Leslie Jamison, Amoskeag Journal:

I’m happy not knowing. Most of the time (except when I’m a neurotic mess about uncertainty) I feel glad that the horizon is a mystery.

Ursula K. Le Guin:

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.

George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone:

Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.

Charlotte Brontë, Villette:

... peril, loneliness, an uncertain future, are not oppressive evils, so long as the frame is healthy and the faculties are employed; so long, especially, as Liberty lends us her wings, and Hope guides us by her star.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Cheryl Strayed, Wild:

Uncertain as I was as I pushed forward, I felt right in my pushing, as if the effort itself meant something.

Junot Diaz, Drown:

Sometimes you just have to try, even if you know it won’t work.

Mark Twain:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Dani Shapiro, Still Writing:

I try to remember that the job — as well as the plight, and the unexpected joy — of the artist is to embrace uncertainty, to be sharpened and honed by it.

Donna Tartt, The Guardian:

I was in Finland on my book tour last time and I was literally leaving my hotel in Helsinki and this young man rushed up all out of breath and said that he was a Finnish poet and he really liked my work and he wanted to meet me. And he gave me a copy of his poems, in Finnish, and a present which I wasn't allowed to open until I got on the plane. Now, you couldn't do that. But once I was on the plane, I opened it — and it was this ring! It's very funny — I really don't take it off. I wear it to remind me that nice things can happen. You can meet nice people. It's about unexpected surprises happening when you're looking the other way.

Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas:

... you should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans.

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore:

Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. … And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.

Joan Didion:

I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment.

Postgraduate blues may seem like the worst — a storm that darkens its way through your early twenties like a painfully awkward episode of Girls. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with being lost.

Do these quotes offer you a glimmer of excitement for the strangeness ahead? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Freddie Moore is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her full name is Winifred, and her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily and The Huffington Post. As a former cheesemonger, she’s a big-time foodie who knows her cheese. Follow her on Twitter: @moorefreddie

(Image credits: Flickr, Flavorwire, Women City Builders, What Would Henry Do?, Goodreads, Philosophy Basics, Goodreads, Strand Books, Wikipedia, One Story, Parnassus Books, AMSAW, Valor, Isaac Likes)

This blog post about touching words at crucial moments is brought to you by We Were Flying to Chicago, Black Balloon Publishing’s new collection of short stories by Kevin Clouther.

About the Book:

Hypnotizing us with the deceptively simple rhythm of the ordinary, We Were Flying to Chicago offers a moment of change: the view over the cliff, the breath before a decision, a sidelong glance of impending news. Award-winning writer Kevin Clouther skillfully slows time to note the visceral, emotional impact of an everyday moment.

A man drives to the wrong mountain, a hubcap cleaner moonlights as a karaoke star and a woman trusts a stranger on the bus. Each of the 10 stories in We Were Flying to Chicago is contemporary without being ironic or glib, offering a glimpse of stark vulnerability, faith and shared experience.

About the Author:

Kevin Clouther was born in Boston and grew up on Cape Cod and in South Florida. He holds degrees from the University of Virginia and Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he completed his thesis under Marilynne Robinson and won the Richard Yates Fiction Award for best short story. He has worked at The Iowa Review, Meridian and The Virginia Literary Review, where he served as fiction editor. He teaches creative writing at Stony Brook University, where he coordinates the Program in Writing Reading Series, and at John Hopkins. He has previously taught at Bridgewater College in Virginia, the University of Michigan Dearborn and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in Floral Park, New York with his wife and two children.

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