You graduated! Congratulations! Graduating college and university is a huge milestone in life! It's something that should be celebrated and remembered. So if you're graduating this year or recently graduated, make sure you take a moment to celebrate and reflect on the past few years. You're not the same person when you initially entered college. Maybe you changed to a major that's more your fit. You made life-long friends who really understand you at a spiritual level. You've landed your dream full-time job. You're ready to enter the real "adult" world! Or maybe not?
Many people have a fear of graduating, and for a variety of reasons: You have some "free time" now and it feels odd. You're now entering your student debt and wondering how to pay it off. You've moved back home and feel as if you've lost all independence. You are considering graduate school but unsure when is the best time to apply. Or now you're in your field and reconsidering if this is the right fit. If any of these fears popped up in your head at any moment in time during your post-grad life, you're not alone.
I am officially 2 years out from graduating college and I can tell you that post-grad life is not all glamorous, but it's not all bad either. I've learned a lot the past few years about myself, my future goals, and where I want to be in life. I hope to share with you a few reminders about life and that you're not alone in this process.
Background: Here's a little glimpse of my life. I graduated 2 years ago from Sacramento State. I held 4 different jobs until now, where I am now a part-time Medical Assistant at a dermatology clinic. I worked my way up to get here so it has been a strenuous journey but enjoyable too. I'm applying to graduate school my 2nd year now. My first year was extremely stressful and worrisome because I got rejected left and right, but managed to land opportunities in the mix. It did not work out, but I still continued and found positive moments in this stage of life. Did I stress out a lot? YES. I don't like having things not planned. I like knowing when things are, what's happening. I slowly adjusted and accepted that the unknown is okay and it's exciting (sometimes) to simply enjoy life and where we're at in this moment. However, here's what I learned:
1) It's okay to be confused
From the first day to entering school at age 4 to graduating, we are accustomed to a schedule and routine. Post-grad life has no real routine. Unless you're working a M-F 9-5 job, then life is pretty stable. However, there's a momentary 'pause,' where you're in the midst of job searching, scrambling to put together grad apps, or overall very confused about everything. That's okay! You're not alone. Everyone feels confused. The best thing to do is relax and take a small break. You've worked hard throughout college. It's important to recollect your thoughts and ideas. Afterwards, you can jump-start into your work instead of aimlessly working into something you're mentally not prepared for. The confusion is normal. Do what you can do at this moment in time and continue from there.
2) Fear of the Unknown
I'm a total Type-A personality. I like knowing when things are, where it's happening, and how it will happen. Post-grad life eliminates that factor. You're unsure of what to expect in the months to come, or you're unsure of what the next day will bring. ENJOY YOUR LIFE. If you have the opportunity to travel, relax, or jump back into your hobbies, do it! After years of school, we tend to neglect little things we enjoy. If you like drawing, hiking, playing music, or whatever you enjoy, go back to it. The unknown will always be there, but this is the time to enjoy the moment you're in.
3) Right Career?
Trust me when I say that it's normal to reconsider your job or potential career. Not everyone jumps into the real world thinking they want to go in a work field related to their major. It's hard to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. Society built the idea that we need to find the 'right' job immediately or we'll automatically fail in life. This is not true! I believe that if you're unsure about your major/career goal, try working in an entry-level job first. This will expose you to the ins and outs of the potential field you want go to and what it's like day to day. Or you can find a mentor! Sometimes guidance from an older, experienced group of individuals you're working with will give you inspiration to continue or discontinue. If you realize that this is not for you, go for something else. It might take longer, but it's better you go into something you enjoy versus a career you despise.
4) Graduate School or Nah?
People talk about graduate school as a way to excel in their current field, and I agree! The question comes down to if one should go immediately after graduating or waiting and gaining experience in the real world first. (This is my opinion) I personally feel that working first and gaining experience is extremely beneficial because it opens the gateway to the adult world. You work with people of all age groups. Sometimes you'll end up as the youngest one for a while, and it's strange. However, graduate schools like a mature, tempered applicant, and the best way to embody that is through work and life experience. So don't feel pressured to apply as soon as possible, but apply when the time is right. Maybe you'll realize you don't need grad school, but maybe it will benefit you in the long run.
5) Don't Fret Living at Home
There's a stigma that "if you live at home after graduating, you've failed at life." I have to highly disagree. I do not think there's anything wrong with living at home. Personally, living at home gave me the ability to do more. I've gained life experience, work experience, travel, and family time while at home. Family time grew to be very significant in my life the past couple of years, so I cherish time with my family as often as I can. Can it be irritating? Sure, living with people can get that way! But it doesn't mean I hate it. More importantly, with student debt on the rise, it's nearly impossible to own personal housing or pay high rent rates for an apartment. Some people are very fortunate to have those opportunities, but not everyone can jump on that as easily. If you can live at home, while showing your parents you're independent, responsible, and have the desire to grow and be better, I'd say stick with it. If you have the means to live on your own and do your own thing, go for it. But remember that living at home is not a negative and should not be frowned upon.
6) Friends, Frenemies, and Family
As we enter the working adult world, it takes more time and effort to plan and see friends. You don't see your friends as often as you did while in college. You can easily see a friend at any moment because of the convenience. However, once everyone begins working and people's schedules fill up with work, family, friend related events, it gets tougher to plan. The best thing to do is communicate with your family and/or friends and plan a day or weekend to hang out. It may not be as frequent as before, but some friend time is better than no friend time. Remember that everyone that graduated is on their own journey too and sometimes they need a reminder to hang out. You as well! In the event you lose some 'friends' along the way, do your best to wish them happiness and success anyway. The worse thing you can do is spread negativity and hatefulness to someone who is busy and can no longer make time to hang out.
7) Comparison is the Thief of Joy
Social media makes it easier to highlight all of the great things in our life, without sharing the negatives. This can really get at our mental well-being and make us feel inadequate. I've definitely felt that way. I see younger people achieving great things in life, or people my own age excelling in their work field. Or even people traveling to all of these great places I can't go to. DO NOT COMPARE YOUR JOURNEY TO SOMEONE ELSE'S. DO NOT DOWNPLAY SOMEONE ELSE TO MAKE YOURSELF FEEL BETTER EITHER. Social media does not show the ugly, the bad, or the negatives. A picture is only a snapshot of what's happening, and a video is only a small moment of an event. It's easier said than done, but remember you are the writer to your story, and no one else can influence you to change your story. Stick to your path, stay off social media if you have to, and don't compare. Appreciate your highs in life, give love to other people, and remember that this is all a process.
8) Take it day by day, week by week
The best thing you can do for yourself is take everything day by day. You're not alone in this confusing journey that we call post-grad life. Mostly everyone will be experiencing the same confusion as you. However, I assure that everything will be okay. You are still young, you have so much life ahead of you, and there's something great planned ahead. Take it day by day, and week by week. You will be where you ought to be soon.
Remember to celebrate your graduation! It's such a huge milestone of your life. Your family and friends are truly proud of you, even if they don't show it. The world is proud of you too! Post-grad life is scary and the unknown is scary, but remember that it's only the beginning of what's to come. Good luck and share your story and progress with the world! You're awesome! :)
June 4th, 2019