Exactly one year ago tomorrow, I became a post-grad.
On May 16, 2014 I walked down the aisle of my school’s basketball stadium with a flat cap pinned to my hair and received a congratulatory handshake from the dean of my college, a man whom I’d never met nor heard of before that day. I listened to a series of speeches which I no longer remember, took dozens of photographs with my family, sweated under a black polyester robe in eighty degree sunshine, and smiled with a huge goofy grin on my face the entire time, even as I freaked out about my future.
My four years at university were a classically defined mixed bag. Academically I performed pretty consistently (with the exception of a few science and math classes that attempted to kick my butt), but emotionally college was like riding a hurl-inducing rollercoaster.
I walked in freshmen year over the moon excited only to drop down from that high moments later, terrified that I’d gotten something wrong or that I’d missed something important. For nine months of school I was on edge, wondering if this new life of mine was something that I could count on.
Sophomore year I told myself that I’d gotten everything under control, that I knew who my friends were, how to take a shot of liquor, and I had had my pick of the best general education classes. So I was going to have fun. But then I realized that I had to pick a major, make a plan, and get on top of the internship scene. Never mind the fact that I didn’t actually have time; since everyone thought I did, I had to meet their expectations or fall behind.
Junior year was even crazier, simultaneously my best and worst year as an undergraduate. I went abroad and struggled to adapt to my new surroundings, sinking deep into a depression even as I had the time of my life traveling across eight countries. To make matters worse, I came back with a virus that kept me bedridden for over a week and to a semester jam packed with internships, leadership positions, and upper level courses in addition to reunions with all the friends that I’d missed for the last six months. It was a short year by comparison (all that European travel really made time fly), but by summer I was ready to go abroad again if only to get away from the people hounding me about my after graduation plans, questions which didn’t stop until months after I’d gotten my job offer.
I think back on my college experience now though as a unit, as a four year chunk of my life to be reminisced over with objectivity. I don’t think about the individual classes or papers that drove me insane or the evenings that I spent feeling sorry for myself alone in my dorm room. I fixate instead on the movie premiers that I went to with my friends and the spontaneous living room dance parties we had to “What Does the Fox Say?” and “Let it Go.” I start to miss my work study job, the one where I used to run around the library without shoes, and the 10:00am yoga class that I took with the same professor for three semesters in a row. I miss having my best friend live upstairs, having lunch with her whenever I wanted, and I miss watching TV in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday just because I can.
But I don’t miss the insecurity that comes from not knowing what post-grad life will look like, the overlong paper requirements and unnecessary homework assignments for classes that I was required to take (*cough* geology *cough*) or the endless social drama that came with being a part of Greek life. I don’t miss feeling like had to be on top of everything every minute of every day or constantly planning for the fixed point of graduation.
This time last year I was terrified of what my life would look like as a post-grad. I even went to a therapist because I started having anxiety attacks from it. My brain was completely unable to process this unending span of time that was life after school and so I’d randomly burst into tears or shut down whenever I had two minutes to think. I’d had no good examples from friends who’d graduated before me, I was leaving school with debt, and I had no idea what I wanted to do long term. It was too much for me to take in and I needed time to figure things out.
A year later, all of those things are still true. I haven’t really solved any of them. But with the help of my extremely patient friends and family I figured out how to live with them. I found a place to live with a roommate that I’m comfortable around, bought furniture that wasn’t from Ikea, got on a payment plan for my student loans, and found a job to support myself with. I also reunited with old friends that I hadn’t seen in a while and finally started spending time pursuing passions that I’d had to put off for lack of time while in school. I started a blog, put more time into my novella, and began exploring a city that I’d really only known as a student.
It may not be the absolute dream package and of course there are still times that I doubt myself and everything I’m doing, but overall I’m confident that I’ve made a great start at building a good life and proud of myself for getting this far.
So cheers to my first year as a post-grad. I made it.