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.

Image result for 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.

  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.

bath bomb

A soft buttery light casts my still-being-furnished bedroom in a calming tone. It’s not as chilly as it usually is, thanks to my landlord offering a space heater in the interim before she can hire an electrician. I clutch my newly purchased bath towel and let it lick up the remaining water droplets while it leaves a snuggly after(taste?)

Then I realize: I am so proud that I own this lovely, lovely towel that I bought for not quite an hour’s labor, which functions as a drying device and mobile nest, whose shade is easy on the eyes yet stylish… this towel that I received in an exchange with the fruits of my first post-college job, which I actually like and is showering me with many lessons both cushy and spiky!

I love my towel! And this milestone towards independence!

Puppy staying cozy in a towel

Did I mention… IT’S ALSO ORGANIC?! 😉

Second Semester Senior Year Realization #1

I wasn’t invited a get-together yesterday and my first reaction was feeling left out. Which, technically, I was. But then I realized that, had I been invited, I probably would’ve been kicking myself for going. I don’t like having to fangirl about Harry Potter all the time, or hyperbolize my homework load, or complain with the rest of my peers as they do so often. I feel a closer kinship with my professors, my home friends, my boyfriend and his older friends, and even my parents and family. Wes has been unspeakably wonderful for me in several regards, but after studying abroad, my lack of patience for being someone I’m not has proven fatal for several friendships. Although it’s an exercise in honesty I’m proud of, that doesn’t mean it’s easy or that I have a readily available second friend group to turn to.

At the beginning of last semester, I was invited to a nearly identical gathering. When I arrived, I was excited to see the friends I hadn’t talked to since pre-London. But after being offered a G&T and settling onto a couch with a quasi-friend who almost made it but was decidedly too busy and cool for me, everyone started talking about what seemed like trivial topics. I became frustrated that I was wasting my time listening to my peers try to one-up each other with prideful stories that lacked substance. So I left, disappointed, visibly bored, and distraught.

I’m grateful for these moments where I internalize reluctance to stay in college. They act as boosters to get out into the real world and thrive. But it’s tough love.