Let’s talk about my life after college and what a complete mess that was. I fell apart the day after I graduated college. It was like I had been holding my breath, waiting to take that first step into the unknown and I fell into a dark hole that I was never going to get out of. I prided myself on having a plan. I did everything right. I worked through college and paid on my student loans while in college. I always was working or being productive. Then it just all went away. It was done, college was over. Funny enough, my friends who didn’t have their act together seemed to just keep going through life without a care in the world, further making me feel like I was continually falling into more darkness. They actually had jobs before I did and I could barely keep it together on graduation day hearing about their future plans.
I didn’t know it, but I defined myself as being a college student. After all, when people asked what I did I could just say “college student” and no one really questioned what that meant. I had an identity as a college student. I didn’t always know what exactly that meant, but it felt like it bought me some time before life got really real. All of that went away and the Monday after graduating I remember waking up and going, “I literally have my entire life ahead and me and I don’t have a single idea what to do. I could really screw this up.”
Here’s what I wish I would have known about life after college:
You have to find who you are independent of anything else
The first time I had to introduce myself after graduating, I realized I didn’t know what to say. I had this weird moment of, “I don’t actually know who I am right now.” I didn’t have any hobbies that weren’t college related and all my efforts up to that point had just been to make it to graduation. Suddenly I had no goals, no ideas of what I wanted, nothing. I felt like there was this huge chapter of my life I was about to write, but I didn’t know how I could start it.
I had to re-figure out what I liked, who I wanted to be. I didn’t even know where to start so I didn’t and I regret that. I can definitely say there was about a month of depression right after graduation because I just didn’t KNOW anything! The thought of trying to introduce myself to someone make me sweat. I had never experienced that before. I was always so well-assured and confident and suddenly my identity and confidence was gone.
The answer? Time and honestly asking yourself what you want. And sometimes that doesn’t reveal itself until circumstances are right. Yes, I know that is a cliche. But I stand by it.
Your entire life is ahead of you and no one can tell you what is right for you
I took comfort in the fact that no one could tell me what was right for me because they didn’t know, and I also hated that someone wouldn’t just tell me what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to know what the heck I was supposed to do with the next 30 years of my life. Really, I didn’t even need it to the right thing, I just wanted to feel some sort of purpose.
Your college friends were most likely just that, college friends (some exceptions apply)
I made a couple of really, really amazing friends in college that still to this day are in my closest circle of friends (hi Jessica!). However, I had to just accept that sometimes people are in your life for a season. And sometimes they are just meant to be that Facebook friend you randomly see and then compare your lives and either fell really great about yours or super inferior and you end up eating your feelings as you go back 10 months to see how great their life has been.
I ran into “friends” about two months after graduation and I had no idea what to say to them past “hi, how are you?” Without being in college, everything that made us be friends was suddenly gone and we really didn’t have anything in common.
I had friends in college that I was so close to, stayed up late studying with, made them dinner and invited them over and I haven’t talked to them since graduation day. Thankfully most of my older friends had warned me this would happen, but combined with also losing a sense of who I was? That could have been brutal. And also, you never know what friends are going to end up being those ride-or-die friends and who is only there for a season.
However, one of the friends who has been the except has been Jessica. My friend who makes me be accountable, doesn’t let me get away with anything and says all the things I don’t want to hear but I know I need to hear. We’ve gone from working in the same office in college to graduation, to her getting married and now, her first baby!
It’s freaking hard to make friends as an adult
You know when you leave a job and you realize that you were only friends with people because you were stuck together for 40+ hours a week? Friendships in college are like that.
Everyone suddenly has their own life and has no time to invest in new relationships as they establish themselves in their career and new life. I couldn’t figure how people made friends. I did that whole delicate friendship dance of starting by texting the person and seeing how fast they responded back to gauge their interest in being friends. Then you do that awkward dance of “maybe we could have lunch but don’t worry it’s no big deal, I barely want to do anything but sure let me know if you want to casually get food or something. Since we all have to eat you know.”
You only have a few years left on your parents insurance, that should motivate you
This one is self explanatory. I was so thankful I was able to be on my parents insurance until this year. Trust me, you need to make sure you get your own insurance as soon as possible when you are looking for a job after college. And then when you do have insurance, you are going to need a college course on how to select the right insurance package for yourself.
You can do everything right and still not get the job. That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you
It was one of the most frustrating things to watch people who screwed around in college, were always late and never got it together… end up with a job before I did. I worked extremely hard to have a resume portfolio that I won an award for. I interviewed well, but none of that mattered. I learned that I was generally passed over by someone who had a personal connection to the person. In fact, that is actually how I got my first job after college. I thought that I would just keep applying with my pretty resume and after I graduated I would just naturally rise to the top of candidates.
HAH! Again, life after college did not go how I planned.
I can’t tell you how many nights I would call my friends Sarah and Kara, upset, crying, angry or frustrated because I still didn’t have a job. I dreaded meeting people because they would ask me how life after college was going. “Um, super well guys, I am clearly making millions and the opportunities are just overwhelming me. ”
Life after college was a hot mess that was basically an emotional roller coaster. This his how I felt daily: chill, depression, anxiety, doubting myself, feeling fine and then repeating this like a million times. I really wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to get past this stage (more dramatically, I thought the rest of my life was going to be listless and like that) but time and effort went into finding who I wanted to be after college.
If you’re reading this though as a recent or soon graduating senior, it does get better. In fact, had I been able to read something like this I would have been better equipped to deal with it. Life after college can be rough, but also so valuable. As much as I struggled, I realized it prepared me for when I am now.