Maybe it’s because there aren’t many movies or TV shows about recent graduates, but I felt woefully unprepared for the reality of graduating college.
In the hopes of helping out those who graduate this year (or plan on graduating ever), I am documenting my experiences as a post-grad adult. Life after college is certainly different, and more of an adjustment than I expected.
Here are 4 things they didn’t tell you about what it’s like to finish college.
1. It’s weird. Like, really weird.
Admittedly, I graduated at a weird time. With only 5 credits to finish after my projected graduation date, I was still “in school” over the summer, and even into the first couple of weeks of my first full-time job. So when, on a rainy Thursday afternoon, after a full workday, my professor told me that I was officially done with college, I had a lot feelings.
Happiness, excitement, sadness, trepidation…But another feeling, one I couldn’t name right away, that gnawed away at me, and still gnaws away at me:
To put it into perspective, those of us graduating from college this year have been in school for a minimum of 15 years. That’s 15 years of our lives, governed by certain rules and certain patterns, just suddenly ended.
It felt like walking on an automated walkway at an airport, and then suddenly stepping off. Not only was the sensation jarring, but now the forward momentum I had been used to (I’m going to the next level of education and then the next one and so on) was suddenly done.
And I could go wherever I wanted. I still can.
And that’s a weird feeling.
2. It’s terrifying
I don’t want to scare you, but if I’m going to prepare you for the reality of life after college, then I should mention that it’s absolutely terrifying.
At least, it has been for me.
For most of my life there weren’t a whole lot of choices, and that meant there weren’t a whole lot of consequences. Obviously there were some pitfalls along the way, but like the walkway analogy, I was still moving in the same direction, still stuck on this path.
Until I stepped off.
Now every choice feels monumental (they’re not all monumental, they just feel that way) and it’s terrifying to think, as I said above, that I could go wherever I wanted. Because what if I make the wrong choice?
Part of what’s so terrifying about the endless possibilities is how endless they are. How does one make a choice from all the choices?
(That’s a rhetorical question, I still haven’t figured out the answer. If you have it, let me know in the comments!)
3. It’s…mostly the same
I think this is the hardest part for me to grasp.
A friend of mine, whom I haven’t seen in several weeks, wanted to hang out, and she mentioned that I’m like a whole new person.
But that’s the thing: I’m not.
When big changes happen, I think I expect–people expect–that I’ll just suddenly change with it. But that didn’t happen. I’m still me, my circumstances have just changed. Which is extremely underwhelming and almost disappointing–but also a relief.
Even when I have a desk and the car I drive is different, some things have stayed remarkably the same — like my penchant for hitting snooze, my love for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and my obsession with random-themed socks.
While a total life overhaul seemed like what I wanted with my new job and degree, I’ve been both really glad and really sad that I didn’t get what I wanted. While newness is exciting, it’s also exhausting.
So I’m learning to be okay with the fact that not everything has changed — and not everything has to.
4. It’s really nice
People talk about the relief of not being in school, and I have to agree. That’s one of the perks of life after college.
For me, the only nice thing about graduating is not being in college anymore.
But I’ve found things that I really enjoy about “real” adulthood that go beyond the lack of homework (though that is really nice).
For example, I love the routine. While it was sometimes fun to have the hectic college schedule of class, work, events, homework, and (eventually) sleep, there’s something nice about knowing what you’ll be doing every day:
That you’ll wake up at the same time, go to the same place, and be with the same people.
The routine is comforting in the midst of the discomfort of adjusting to adulthood.
Life After College: It’s a Work in Progress
Most importantly, graduating from college has taught me that, truly, nothing is forever. College felt like it would never end — and it did.
I can believe in the future now, because it’s so vast and unknowable.
And now life is weird and terrifying, mostly the same and sometimes really nice, but it can also change in a moment. And I know I’ll get comfortable eventually, but I’m not going to rush myself.
I mean, I’ve got my whole life ahead of me.
What do you think?
Are you excited to graduate? Terrified? Is there anything you want to know about life on the other side?