Post-College Primer

It’s hard to overstate the anticipation felt by college seniors. Just like the weather, it’s basically been dubbed a universally acceptable topic to broach whenever, whereever, as long as the conversation partner has experienced three years of meal point budgeting and acronyming ≥ fifteen campus buildings.

Before you know it, you’re flinging your cap and posing for photos with your friends. But after the crowd disseminates, your family leaves, and you turn in your key, it’s like POOF. WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD, TAKE A NUMBER.

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It felt a little bit like free fall when Mitch and I drove in our furniture-filled cars to my new apartment just a few hours after feeling the most collegiate I ever had. The lack of oversight was so sudden. This is hard to overstate. The lack of oversight was so sudden.

No more departments with well-paid employees whose livelihood was about making sure I was taken care of. No more instant access to thousands of journals, resources, media of all kinds, paid for with the intent to broaden my little scholarshipped mind. Now, my next stage of education was entirely up to me. (Well… and my parents. Because they were still aiding me financially with a car, a Y membership, health insurance. And because I am conditioned to value their opinion, whether I like that or not.)

How many college prep handbooks exist? Is there a limit to the number of sympathetic ears that will indulge a stressed college kid dealing with the classic problems everyone goes through during that life stage? That’s the thing about college: If you’re having a problem, someone else has already had it and written anywhere from a one-threaded to viral article/post/poem/expression about it, and has probably made it accessible to anyone with a knowledge of how keywords work. Post-college life? Not so much. Because it’s harder to succinctly package and none of us have the time (or monetary incentive) to express such things and there’s a much wider variety of experiences to be had with one’s first job or period of unemployment or however you use that time, there’s a deficit of self-help resources of recent college grads.

Looking back, I want to record the resources I found to guide me through one of the most grueling, growth-centered, uncomfortable, empowering years of my life.

  1. Friends. One of the most potent tools I use to center myself is empathizing with people going through similar experiences. Just last week, I was convinced that my life was crumbling before my eyes until my best friend described her bleak recent experiences: a boyfriend unable to buy her a slice of pizza, a night not without a helping of “cheese soup”, and the regrettable decision to watch Thirteen Reasons Why. On the other hand, it’s also uplifting to hear of strides my friends are making out there in the real world, landing jobs with benefits, not giving up when schools aren’t accepting them, and generally keeping themselves sane. This is not a low bar. This is ADMIRABLE! (…mostly for the first few years post-college, but, you know, always.)
  2. Letting it out. AKA crying. A LOT. Learning to live with it, accept who I am, how I emote. Taking steps to deal with stress better. Seeing a therapist. Fighting my inner middle school cynic and trying meditation (and it working!) Taking time to realize who I am or am becoming, and not pushing that away. Maybe not accepting it quite yet, but learning to parallel play with it.
  3. Similar to #1, relating to strangers with different life paths than me. The Millennial podcast has been absolutely paramount to thriving post-college. I encourage everyone to listen!
  4. Mark Manson’s blog. This guy reads like a down-to-earth philosophergeniuscomic. Like existential crisis medicine. Try one article and if you’re not impressed, either you didn’t get it or you are Mark Manson.
  5. These freaking parrots.
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