Graduating college will be one of the best and worst experiences to ever happen to you – there, I said it. We spend 16 (or more) years in a classroom with educators telling us where to be, what to do, how to study, why we shouldn’t procrastinate, and who to network with. But even then, only in college are you allowed to decide if you’re skipping your 8 am because you’re hungover or skipping your study session because you need to get ready for that themed party (no judgement, it’s for the likes).
These 4+ years of your life are meant for you to discover what you love and grow into who you’re meant to be – it’s an exhilarating feeling to be standing at the edge of the cliff to the unknown. You see the view from the top of the world yet have the safety of your parent’s financial support, the relief of not paying taxes, and your advisors planning your schedule to not fall off.
It’s not until we walk across the stage and off the cliff that we understand the actual meaning of freedom.
The playing field is completely different and there’s no structure – some of your friends are accepting job offers to fortune 500 companies while others are taking month long trips across the world. Although the moment of reality sinks in at different times for people, we all go through the similar feeling of panic and the inevitable question of, “what do I do now?”
Unfortunately for me, I spent most of my years of education assuming I would be in healthcare and absolutely zero seconds of that time considering if I would like it. It sounds immature to say that, but I honestly think that’s the underlying reason that many people end up facing once they graduate – we become comfortable telling people what we plan to do with our lives and don’t fully comprehend the reality of waking up before 8 am and doing it for 40+ hours a week.
I’ve been a post-grad for a little over a year now and it’s been one full of tears, breakthroughs, and leaps of faith. Here, I’ve listed 3 of the most important lessons I’ve learned.
1. Your life starts when you stop caring what people think about it
Coming out of college, most of us are still under the impression that there’s a “correct” path to follow, but who can blame us? We’ve literally been trained our entire lives by living on a schedule that someone else gave us. There seems to be some form of shame that comes from telling people you’re unemployed, that you’re waitressing until you land a job, that you’re accepting an unpaid internship, or that you’re moving home with your parents.
We assume people will judge us for stepping out of the norm of what society deems as “successful” or if we do anything that isn’t considered “adult.” And it’s scary to do something different when social media is constantly giving us an imaginary standard to live up to based on what our peers are doing. It’s the world of technology we live in – people pick up their phones to scroll through our social media to see what we’ve been up to instead of calling us to hear about it.
But there’s a difference between thousands of people knowing what you’re doing with your life and them actually caring.
If people are talking about what you’re doing, it’s either because they’re already your supporters OR they don’t like you (and will find any excuse to talk badly about you regardless). So backpack across Europe or take steps to make your side hustle your full-time job. Do what you want to do and feed your soul – you owe it to yourself.
2. Your priorities will change – let them
Nothing made me feel like I had officially become an adult like watching snapchats of Thirsty Thursday and not feeling left out. I’m not sure if it was because I was exhausted from working full-time or because I wasn’t sure if it was socially acceptable for me to continue wearing crop tops, but there I was, laying in bed at 10 pm with Netflix and no FOMO.
We assume growing up means growing boring, but it doesn’t. It’s simply that we stop having time to worry about things that don’t necessarily impact us and have to start answering to responsibilities instead. Staying out past midnight on a Tuesday isn’t as fun when you have work at 8 am on a Wednesday and spending $15 on a plate of pasta isn’t as luxurious when it’s with your own money.
Naturally with all these life adjustments comes a change in priorities – and changes are sometimes scary. You begin to become pickier on who your best friends are, you see through the excuses that guy is giving you (and actually stop talking to him), and you stop becoming a victim of all the online sale emails in your inbox.
You aren’t being boring, you’re being selective.
And there’s nothing wrong with being selective – it means you’re choosing who and what you’re investing your energy and time into. You’re young, but not reckless. You’re fun, but not irresponsible. And you’re an adult, but not old.
3. Your support system is more important than ever
It’s no surprise that you’ve either cried once during this experience, had some form of quarter-life crisis where you considered deleting all your social media, or convinced yourself that your job as a hostess would be your job forever. Even though you’re questioning yourself and your ability to be successful, your best friends and loved ones aren’t.
We truly don’t understand the importance of support until it’s all we need – this statement is so simple yet cannot be felt until it happens to you. Until it’s 2 am and you’re crying on the phone to your best friend about how you don’t know what you’re passionate about, but she’s telling you that you’re the best person she knows. Or until your aunt is telling you that she’s proud of your persistence regardless if you feel like you have no idea what’s happening in your life. As you continue to struggle, you’ll also feel an entirely higher level of appreciation for the those who stick with you – who lift you off the ground and repeatedly tell you it’ll get better.
The only people you need in your life are the ones who believe in you even more than you do.
And for me, one of those people happened to be my brother. He’s my favorite person in the world – and probably the most success and brightest person I know. While I was torn with playing it safe or jumping headfirst off a cliff, he continued to call me daily to tell me to jump. He was so adamant on me chasing my dreams that I couldn’t help but wonder why I wasn’t. So here I am, a few months later, writing this post and feeling more free than I have for the past 24 years of my life.
What are some lessons that have stuck out to you since you graduated?