I graduated almost a year ago. WOW. I can’t believe it’s been an entire year in the “real world.” Graduating college is a part of the experience that no one can avoid (well, I guess you can, but being a 12th year senior doesn’t sound like a ton of fun if you ask me). If I’m being perfectly honest, as I always try to be here, my first year post-grad was ROUGH. I graduated without a job meaning that I moved home for the summer. A massive hurricane hit my hometown (thanks, Irma). I moved to a city where I knew approximately three people. And I started a job where I knew very little about the industry. While it’s been rough, it’s also been one of the best years of my life in a way. Graduating is not all rainbows and sunshine, but it’s also not all storm clouds either. Today, I want to talk about what it’s really like to graduate — what that experience has been like for me — the good and the bad. Let’s get started!
The Bad (I want to end this post on a positive note, so let’s start here.)
1. Feeling isolated from friends. This is 100 percent on me, but I’ve always wanted to live in Nashville, so when I had the chance to after graduation, I took it. I’m so incredibly grateful to be in this town — it’s full of fun things to do and inspirational individuals — but it’s also tough to be separated from my college friends. I knew moving here that I wouldn’t know that many people, but I didn’t know it would be so difficult to see my friends still on the East Coast hanging out with each other on the weekends while I struggled to find my place. I know other people can relate to this (and might even feel it more than I do since I have my brother here in Nashville with me), but it’s really hard to feel like you’re alone in struggling to make new friends, even if you are living in a wonderful place. Even though this post-grad experience is hard, it can help to know that almost everyone else you know is feeling this way too.
2. Working in a job that may not be your dream job. Something people don’t talk about a lot is that your first job probably won’t be your dream job — and that’s okay! Everyone needs to start somewhere, and you never know what you may end up loving. A lot of people don’t even work in an industry that involves their major right out of college. My biggest piece of advice is to accept opportunity. Make the best out of every situation, and you’ll get to where you want to be.
3. You’re probably going to feel very alone at some point. But I promise you, you are not alone. Whether it’s feeling like you’re the only person from your friend group that doesn’t have enough money to travel, or feeling like the only person from your grade that isn’t instantly making friends at your new job, you’re going to feel alone. And that’s okay. I personally think it’s an incredibly important part of entering into adulthood. Feeling alone brings you strength. It teaches you to rely on yourself when you have no one else to turn to. But it’s important to know that it won’t last forever. You may feel lonely, but you are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people have or will feel this way, and one day you will look back on this post-grad year and wonder why you ever thought you were so lonely.
4. It’s really hard to make friends as an adult. I know I already mentioned the friend thing, but it’s a biggie. Without the proximity that college provides, it can be really hard to make friends in the “real world.” You’re lucky if you can find pals at work, but if you’re working in an industry that leans toward the older side or your office is small, it’s going to be hard to find a core group of friends. In my experience, it’s also very different having friends post-grad. Personally, I have a bunch of people I could reach out to to get coffee with or grab a bite to eat, but I don’t have the core group of friends I had in college to go on a Cook-Out run with or binge watch romantic comedies with on Friday night. This all comes with time, I understand, but it can be really hard that first year when so many things are new and different and you don’t even have the comfort of familiar friends around to help you adjust.
1. Traveling is so much easier. Without homework looming over your head and (hopefully!) some extra cash in your pocket, traveling on the weekends is that much easier. I’ve traveled or had friends visit at least once a month since I moved to Nashville. I’ve greatly enjoyed being able to see friends or explore new places on my weekends since I’m no longer tethered to a desk studying. I’m hoping to take some closer weekend trips as soon as the weather warms up to explore my own backyard. Tennessee has so much to offer, and I’m excited to discover old bookstores and new hiking trails.
2. You actually have time to focus on your passions. Since graduating, I have been able to blog regularly, engage in Skillshare courses to further my education in areas that interest me, and continue reading religiously. I never had time for these things in college between classes and organization involvement, but with evenings and weekends truly free to do what my heart desires, I’ve been able to explore so much. In college, I was so focused on building my resumé. I led teams and organized philanthropy events, but I never got to read as much as I wanted to or learn about the things that interested me outside of my studies. As a working adult, you truly get to make your free time yours. You can explore any passion you choose.
3. FREEDOM. As an “adult,” the only person you have to answer to is yourself. Similar to getting to travel and explore your passions, you have the freedom to make all your own choices. Personally, I got a taste of that during my college days, as I’m sure many other people did, but there is something quite liberating about not having homework waiting for you or an advisor relying on you. I am the type of person that never wants to let anyone down, and in the real world, the only person I’m letting down if I don’t do something is myself. During this first year outside of college, I have felt truly free to make my own choices.
4. You meet a diverse amount of people. This truly could be because of the university I attended, but I’ve never met such a diverse group of people as I have in Nashville. From programmers born and raised in the city to swing dancers from Kenya, I couldn’t be more astounded by the diverse amount of people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and connect with.
I know I’ve complained a lot in the last year, but being part of the “real world” really isn’t all that bad. “Adulting” for the first year can be hard depending on the path you decide to take, but it can also be the greatest adventure of all time. Either way, it can’t be avoided. It must be faced at some point. So to all of those that are about to graduate, good luck. You’re going to need it.
If you’ve got any thoughts on what it’s really like to graduate college that I didn’t touch upon, let me know in the comments below!