Nobody Told Me
Nobody told me how difficult it would be to graduate from college.
When considering adulthood, I thought the worst part would be paying bills, moving furniture or cooking something other than whole wheat pasta (and pretending that was healthy) for dinner. In reality, none of those turned out to be very bad at all! I discovered that you can auto-pay bills online, pay your cute guy friends to help you move and cook almost anything on the stove top. Simple enough, right?
I didn’t necessarily expect the whole “adult” thing to be easy, but I also didn’t expect it to overwhelm me the way it did. Granted, I was also in a long-distance relationship that was quickly tanking, so that definitely didn’t help me navigate life in the aftermath of graduating. Along with having roommates with very different personalities than mine who brought a tense atmosphere to my home life, post-grad life dropped a whole new concept into my path: being intentional.
Graduating from college changes who you are—one moment you’re a student like you’ve always been, and the next moment you find that your identity has shifted. For me, the combination of a failing relationship, an uncomfortable home life and the loss of the built-in college community I’d had for 3.5 years made for a whirlwind season of life. If you’re not careful, all of a sudden you realize you haven’t seen your friends in two months and Netflix keeps asking you if you’re still watching your show because you fall asleep on the couch every night.
The magic of college, especially at a smaller school like Belmont, is that you are provided with a trillion opportunities to engage in community each day. You can poke your head out your dorm room and see if your neighbors are home, you can head to your dorm’s lobby and see if the regular lobsters are down there, you can avoid the caf at all costs and find somebody to go to Chago’s with and you can catch up in the quad for a minute with your friend before class. Even when you move off campus, you’re still living a student’s life and seeing different faces all the time.
The un-magic of graduating is that you suddenly lose the convenience of having those trillions of opportunities to engage in community—and you have to learn how to make them. And no, I’m not talking about small talk with the guy at Trader Joe’s who always ends up being your checkout cashier (thank goodness they have nametags)! Real, authentic relationships require vulnerability and hard work, and the same applies to keeping those relationships when your friends live 20 minutes away in another part of town. It’s a tough transition, and personally I didn’t handle it very well. It was the single most complicated, lonely and frustrating part of leaning into the new identity that graduation handed me along with my diploma.
But becoming that new “adult” person (let’s be real I still have no idea how to do taxes) and leaving college behind has been a beautiful journey of growth, and ironically, I’ve finally learned how not to be a student. It may have taken a whole year, but I wouldn’t trade the process for the world.
What I took away from that first year after graduating was that in order to live outside of my college identity, I had to try really hard to keep in touch with the people who meant a lot to me—and be okay with letting some other people go. After you’ve worked 9 to 5 all week, the last thing you want to do is fix your makeup, put on any outfit that isn’t pajamas and socialize with people. But sometimes you have to, and it ends up being the best part of your week! It doesn’t hurt that usually a glass of wine is involved (sorry Mom).
Being intentional about relationships was a huge struggle at first, but most of my post-grad friends were having the same exact problems, and a pajama party goes a long way to get rid of the workweek blues. I don’t know if I could give you a formula for how to handle the transition, but I promise that you are not alone in the loneliness! It’s okay to fall asleep on the couch watching New Girl, but don’t let it keep you from the abundant fun and joy you could be having with your freshman-year roommate. Intentionality completely changed my post-grad experience.
Nobody told me how difficult it would be to graduate from college, so now I’m telling you.
[Photo by Juliette Kibodeaux.]