Last year, I wrote an open letter to the class of 2015 (my own).
It’s scary to think that it’s been almost a full year to the day since I walked across the stage, victoriously held my hard-earned diploma in my hands, and transitioned from “college kid” to “college grad” with a flip of my tassel.
And now, here I am. A year older, wiser (?), and fully immersed into the big bad “real world” of post-grad life and so-called “adulthood.”
This past year has been nothing like I expected, and has – quite frankly – been an uphill battle. More often than not, it’s been marked by struggle, by self-doubt, by more questions than answers, and by many tough decisions.
But you know what? If nothing else, it’s been one of the most learned years of my life. And if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for advice and sharing with others, so here are the five things that post-grad life has taught me (thus far):
1. You’re going to have friendships that fade away no matter how hard you try to maintain them, and that’s okay.
People start new careers, further their education, move back home, get married, start a family, whatever – all of a sudden, there are dozens of new priorities in life and some friendships will naturally fade away. It’s a part of life, and in the end, the people who are meant to be there will remain.
2. You will never again have as much free time as you did in college.
I understand that this may not be the case for some people who took 20+ hour semesters and worked one or more part-time jobs to pay for everything, but for most of us, it will ring painfully true. Even if your job does not necessitate long hours, you will find that between your commute, your daily workout, taking care of your pets, getting chores done, etc. your day will fly by until it’s time for bed again. Don’t take it as a bad thing, per say; just take it in stride and learn to take a step back to really embrace the now.
3. There’s a decent chance you won’t even spend a year at your first job, and it will not put a scarlet letter put on your resume.
Three months into my first job post-grad, I realized I was absolutely miserable and that the job I had so eagerly accepted a month before graduation no longer existed. In fact, I was working at a completely different company than the one I had interviewed with (almost literally – the company had undergone a name change, among other things), and my job responsibilities were no longer the ones I had been so excited to undertake. I woke up every week day with a pit of dread in my stomach, and I made the morning commute with an overwhelming sense of gloom.
I knew I had to make a change, but I was terrified to do so because I kept coming back to a single phrase: job hopper. I didn’t want to be seen as the “stereotypical millennial” – bored and needing a complete job change every few months just because one or two things were off-kilter and feeling entitled to more…
But eventually, after listening to similar sentiments from my colleagues, I was encouraged to start a job hunt. I honestly wasn’t expecting much – I was still pretty fresh out of college, after all – and I was pleasantly surprised with the traction I received after a week of searching. By Halloween, I had a job offer with a higher salary, and by the first week of November, I was employed elsewhere.
So if you find yourself at an unpleasant place in your professional life mere months after starting, don’t be intimidated by the prospect of being considered a “job hopper” to be pursuing other opportunities.
4. You’re going to look at others and wonder why you’re not doing more with your life.
Good grief, this is probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to swallow this year.
At some point, you’re going to catch yourself doing it, “Man, I can’t believe she’s only 22 and is getting to travel all over the world with her high-profile job… What am I doing with my life?”
Just because so-and-so is making double your salary at a job they can’t stop raving about and your sorority sister is getting married this summer to her college sweetheart does not mean that your place in life is to be looked at in a lesser light. We all have our own journeys with our own ebbs and flows – you will never know the full, intimate details of someone else’s story, so it is absolutely pointless to try and compare yourself.
5. You’re going to emerge stronger, smarter, and more confident.
Despite the curveballs life will throw you in your first year of post-grad life (be it job changes, cross-country moves, or unexpected joys), you will learn to be stronger, smarter, and more confident.
This is the first year of my life that I have ever lived completely alone, and every tiny little thing I had to deal with has taught me a valuable lesson. From having to confront my immense fear of roaches head-on instead of relying on someone else to kill them for me (thanks Raid) to adopting and then taking care of a new furry family member, every challenge and new experience has contributed to making me a more well-rounded person.
No matter what your situation is, you too, will emerge stronger, smarter, and more confident. Whether you’ve made the (sometimes tough) decision to move back in with your parents, the bold decision to move to a brand-new state, or simply chosen to move to the next city over, every experience will help you grow… If you let it.
So whether you’re a young professional struggling to find your place, or a bright-eyed soon-to-be-grad with your sights on the “real word,” it’ll be okay.
Don’t ever feel alone, because there’s a damn good chance that someone else is right there with you, no matter what your circumstances. And if you’re ever in doubt, just laugh. Life’s too short and too full of stupid shit to be taken seriously.