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.
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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- These freaking parrots.
…don’t know where the title came from but I like it!
- Is environmentalism a privileged person’s cause? Isn’t it more pressing to be assisting hungry children or the homeless? Partly yes, partly no; climate change is causing untold numbers of humans to go hungry because of failing crops or become homeless as catastrophic weather events intensify and increase in frequency.
- How do we educate about climate change without making people so scared or angry or frustrated or bored that they turn off their emotions and go back to buying their daily Double Ristretto Venti Half-Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double-Shot Gingerbread Frappuccino Extra Hot With Foam Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended, One Sweet’N Low and One Nutrasweet, and Ice in a non-recyclable coffee cup and using hundreds of plastic bags annually to encapsulate their grocery store vegetables?
Back to environmentalism (last thought for now):
3. Yes, it costs more to buy organic and biodynamic and pasture-raised and cage-free and cruelty-free and not-tested-on-animals and biodegradable. However, if you can afford it (which you probably can… at least some products, which also probably taste better or are better for your bod), think of it as both voting and making an impact. Each product purchased acts as one vote towards the values associated with the product and/or the company itself. In regards to making an impact, your organic cotton rounds are polluting the world less than cotton balls, and that extra money spent is going to help someone affected by climate change by lessening its impact, even by a teensy tiny bit. This is not to say that I personally believe that buying organic = donating to climate refugees. However, it’s certainly not a terrible habit to get into.
I was ecstatic to graduate. It was thrilling and challenging to surpass June. The first full days of work, memorizing commutes, and creating a list of food staples was an uncomfortable yet bearable suite of “real world” changes. July brought more time to practice. Finding a way to the Y every few days was difficult but important to maintaining a clear(ish) head. I saw the reminder telling me that my internship’s official end date was approaching, but disregarded it. After all, my boss had been dropping hints all summer of its likely continuance through multiple seasons.
I was fairly acquainted with the 10+ projects consultants balance at any one time and enjoying the mapping, field work, and statistical analyses. I also did mindless data entry and other rote tasks delegated to “the intern”, but didn’t mind much because the job had brought far more intellectual stimulation than I’d predicted.
August hit. My boss wasn’t so sure of my intended tenure. My mind leapt into a frenzy: what to do next!?
Now, in a parallel universe with an unattached Sophie, the frenzy would have been less frantic. Or at least a different shade of that dusty pink that temporarily blocks your senses and inhibits clear thinking. Single Sophie would have assessed her situation and felt free to apply to jobs all over the country and even the nearer parts of the world in hopes of furthering her dream to step into a biological researcher’s shoes, with notebook and pipette in tow. But in this world, Sophie’s heart is not unilocutory (trying to hold on to my dwindling Latin knowledge; forgive me) and it’s not that easy to book the next train to Winnipeg.
are were my options (as of last week):
- Apply to jobs all over the country (and world) that light my lil bio-crazed fire
- Try to coordinate job applications with my cardiac partner, which means applying to the Northeast area, and mostly to cities
- Email professors at cool city universites asking if they have room in their lab for me to work or volunteer. Then I’ll get a part-time job if it’s not full time (the most likely outcome, if I can even pull off the whole lab tech thing)
- WWOOF or do Workaway or join a cult.
Fast forward to the literal last week in August, when the internship without an end date should have ended. That was before I was asked to help catch some fish in the end of September. So now I’m on until then. My boss said he’d let me know about my future after he crunches numbers around Labor Day. So that’s the latest… how utterly freaked out I am! But also excited that, if I do find myself unemployed come October, I’ll have time to find another job that’s another good step towards grad school!
Whatever happens, there will be bad and there will be good. But, in time, the good will most definitely overshadow the tough stuff.
All of the quotes below are from a botanist I just heard about named Robin Wall Kimmerer. She studies mosses, a group that I am lucky enough to also worship and find so much magic within.
This inspiration brought to me and you by this Brain Pickings article (BP IS THE BEST.)
I want to live for a thousand years studying mosses and biology and concurrently dissolve within the magic of it all. I’m bursting.
“Life [exists] only because of a myriad of synchronicities that bring us to this particular place at this particular moment. In return for such a gift, the only sane response is to glitter in reply.”
“We poor myopic humans, with neither the raptor’s gift of long-distance acuity, nor the talents of a housefly for panoramic vision. However, with our big brains, we are at least aware of the limits of our vision. With a degree of humility rare in our species, we acknowledge there is much we can’t see, and so contrive remarkable ways to observe the world. Infrared satellite imagery, optical telescopes, and the Hubble space telescope bring vastness within our visual sphere. Electron microscopes let us wander the remote universe of our own cells. But at the middle scale, that of the unaided eye, our senses seem to be strangely dulled. With sophisticated technology, we strive to see what is beyond us, but are often blind to the myriad sparkling facets that lie so close at hand. We think we’re seeing when we’ve only scratched the surface. Our acuity at this middle scale seems diminished, not by any failing of the eyes, but by the willingness of the mind. Has the power of our devices led us to distrust our unaided eyes? Or have we become dismissive of what takes no technology but only time and patience to perceive? Attentiveness alone can rival the most powerful magnifying lens.”
“Learning to see mosses is more like listening than looking. A cursory glance will not do it. Starting to hear a faraway voice or catch a nuance in the quiet subtext of a conversation requires attentiveness, a filtering of all the noise, to catch the music. Mosses are not elevator music; they are the intertwined threads of a Beethoven quartet.”
Luxuries I’m actively enjoying and reminiscing about while presently engaging with them:
- A meal plan. If I choose, I can spend about 16 points per day on pre-made food. That’s usually pretty good. And somewhat healthy. And readily available. All day. The next time this happens may be if I ever enter a nursing home… or camp (let’s hope for the latter.)
- A house with heat that I can crank up without worrying about expense (room and board covers it.) This is not to say that I don’t wear copious layers or go to sleep bundled up like an infant, but compared to my experiences in other places (e.g. home), the ability to saunter over to the thermosdat and effortlessly raise the heat above hibernation-inducing is absolutely divine!
- A residence that’s four minutes from my science classes, three from the grocery store, three from the gym, four from many other classes.
- A campus whose grocery store is a yuppie’s dream: practically all organic or local or cruelty-free or vegan or gluten-free or without preservatives or a big mix of those factors. Of course, that means that natural peanut butter is eleven dollars, but the fact that I’m practically required to indulge myself in these culinary treats is quite a luxury. How can I complain?
- Professors who are practically celebrities. My friend’s advisor is a climate change econ advisor to the president. A professor for whom I’m devising a project and was a former lab assistant was the advisee of Richard Lewontin and TA’d for E.O. Wilson. Two other evolutionary bio profs were at Harvard getting their grad degrees at that time as well.
- A student body that struggles to contain their exuberance for life by constantly breaking the Rule of 7 and using their non-existent free time to manage musicals, clubs, movements, volunteering, bands, projects, companies, you name it… I know that each person I pass while walking from my house to Usdan has a fascinating story and set of passions that led them here. I wish I could get to know them all. But because that’s not really within my time limit, I’m satisfied with knowing the stories of a portion of them and dreaming about those of they who remain.
I feel very self-conscious publishing a list of material items I’d be happy to receive. However, as is the purpose of this blog, this post is also acting as a repository so that I may document ideas and find them at a future time. I’m not asking for any of these things right now. However, you might find this useful on my birthday or another similar time.
- A Rumi book of poetry
- Map-covered anything, especially pillows or blankets
- A subscription to Bust magazine.
- A ticket somewhere! Or a night at a hotel! Or a concert ticket!
- All I want to do is travel. True story.
- When you share a piece of music and the recipient struggles to reply out of sheer stupefaction
- Getting a second wind
- When the state of your cappuccino’s foam is both plentiful and high-quality
- When you develop a positive habit and it becomes second-nature
- When you and someone else simultaneously feel something so deeply that it incapacitates your speech but you just know that the other person is experiencing the same phenomenon
- Experiencing a paradigm shift (of neutral or positive nature, hopefully!)
- Finding out you were wrong about something negative you unconsciously accepted as truth
- Noticing something you didn’t realize before: an instrument in a song, the facade of a building above the first storey, a new tasting note in a drink or food, etc.
- The instant you finally feel sufficiently warm or cooled down in the case of inclement weather.
- That moment of understanding when that string of unintelligible words suddenly looks like poetry. Or, when your perspective changes and everything that was old now looks new.
- When all the thoughts that use your head like an airport, landing and taking off ceaselessly, pause for a moment and leave you with a nearly empty and totally peaceful mindset.
- Being able to think back to a years-ago memory and compare it to current circumstances. For instance, the other day at klezmer rehearsal, as my three zany senior music-major fellow bandmates and I danced around in a circle, I was reminded of our very first rehearsal as freshmen in a subterranean practice room. Matt had a man-bun (before it was in vogue), I thought Angus was super cool (still do), and Matthew was doing his best to get us through pieces (still does, but he’s a lot more confident now.) I was much more timid, too. Blast from the past!
- Finding a nugget of joy that comes out of nowhere and pushes all of your humor buttons at once, like this:
I crack up EVERY TIME.
And now I’m just gonna pop some hilarious pictures here because laughing is good.
I’m almost dreading going back to college this summer, for the first time.
This post is to convince myself that it will indeed be a year well spent, and I might even have some fun thoughout.
- Fun science to learn
- New friends to make
- London-borne nonchalant attitude to flaunt (while probably freaking out every few weeks about life after graduation)
- Apples to pick at the orchard
- Parties to hold, hors d’oeuvres to concoct, themes to think up!
- Terp dancing
- Klezmer band
- WesWIS events to plan and attend
- Maybe develop a running habit?
- A car with which to zoom around the thus far judged as boring state of Connecticut
- Trivia nights to attend at Boca, and that new bar on Church to seek out
- Word game nights
- Slam poetry events filled with crazy inspiration
- Things I can’t yet predict!