I took a break from blogging last week, hoping that it would give me an extra seven days to overcome the various forms of writer’s block I’ve been experiencing lately. If anyone was wondering, no, the extra week didn’t help.
A couple of my friends are nearing graduation, and given that many of my friends on Facebook are still in college, I’m seeing a very familiar slew of posts describing the excitement, sadness, and fear of leaving university.
I only graduated a year ago, so I empathize with these sentiments. At the same time, however, I also find myself feeling oddly distant from the entire experience.
I’m not trying to be holier-than-thou and pull the age card on anyone graduating this year. To be completely honest, I’m also kind of sad about graduation season rolling around again. Within the next few weeks, two of my closest friends will be leaving the area, and I’m not having an grand ole’ time with that.
(Though thank you both for staying within the larger Bay Area.)
Leaving the familiar comforts of college isn’t easy. My blog posts from last summer reveal that I obviously spent months dwelling on the emotional struggle of finding friends in the post-grad space.
But friendships are really only the tip of the iceberg.
Without the confines and freedoms of the academic world influencing your life, you suddenly have a lot more of yourself to take care of, but far less time to do so. Holding a job means you no longer have to do homework at night, but you’re also forced to prioritize what you want to do in the few hours you have before you have to go to bed so you can get up early to make the commute to work.
And lather, rinse, repeat.
I realize that description is not really selling the prospect of “adulting” — but it is the truth. When you graduate and leave behind the title of “student,” you’re no longer defined by the clubs you participated in, the classes you took, or the papers you wrote. (Higher degree-bound folk, you don’t count because you’ll still be a student. Carry on.)
It’s up to you, then, to figure out what’s important to you as an individual.
That statement sounds super cheesy, so I’ll back track a little: I know people who, after graduating, spent their time after work binge watching Netflix. Others joined local sports teams and picked up new hobbies. And then some began their post-grad days watching Netflix but moved away from that because they realized — that wasn’t how they wanted to spend their lives.
If the questions “What do I want to do?”, “Is this important?”, “How much does this matter to me?”, or any of their variations start becoming a common part of your self-talk in the coming months — don’t panic.
This isn’t because you’ve suddenly realized you earned the wrong degree. The working life is just, at its core, entirely different from the academic life. It’s hard for students to anticipate how their post-grad lives will take shape until that change happens, and try as recent grads may, it’s also challenging to explain how these differences manifest.
Your peers and friends might not talk about this as they post photos of their new office spaces on Instagram, but trust me: you’re not alone.
For greater credibility, a conversation I eavesdropped on this past week, between people at least four years older than me:
“We want people around three to five years out from college, not recent grads.”
“Oh yeah, no, everyone hates their first job out of college. We need older people to give them hope.”