4 Things You’ll Do The First Year You’re A Post-Grad
By Todd Clayton
1. Make sure the sexiest of your three part-time jobs is the one that’s visible on your Facebook. Unless you studied something relatively marketable (read: Engineering, Accounting), chances are high that you — like I — are juggling multiple jobs to pay for rent/car insurance/food/something-to-do-besides-sitting-on-your-couch-and-watching-hulu. Since Facebook only makes one employer visible, you’ll put up the one that impresses people most — even if you only do it for five hours a week. A similar section could be titled, “List yourself as a graduate student as soon you get accepted, even if it’s seven months before classes start.”
2. Shyly make an online dating profile. Tell anyone who asks about it that a friend made it for you. Delete it a few months later. There’s something terrifying about not being in a condensed community of your peers anymore. When every person you walk by isn’t within 5-ish years of you and relatively attractive, you start to believe that you’re the only twenty-two year old out there. Fear of life-long loneliness will likely compel you to your laptop at 1 AM, and your fingers will — almost uncontrollably — type out the supposed solution to your terror: Match or eHarmony or OkCupid or whatever. If you’re anything like me, after a few failed attempts — and a bucket-full of weird-ass intro sentences — you’ll decide that you’d rather risk eternal solitude than get another email.
3. Realize that traveling doesn’t fix your problems. A week after I graduated, I was on a transatlantic flight to London for a three-week trip across Western Europe. I traveled because I expected new cities to whisper some ancestral secret to me. I expected them to reflect my destiny on the buildings of their foreign downtowns, that the anxieties that haunted me in San Diego would somehow stay there if I flew away fast enough. Maybe it’s because I was reading The Bell Jar, or maybe it’s because I’d been traveling for a couple weeks by then, but in a second-story coffee shop in Berlin I realized that wherever I traveled, my same, age-old neuroses would follow: My fears, and regrets, and unresolved conflicts snuck their way into my suitcase and spilled out onto the hostel-room floor along with my boxers. Plath says it best, “If [she] had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made one scrap of a difference to me, because wherever I sat — on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok — I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” The trick, I’ve learned, is finding the courage to lift the jar wherever I find myself.
4. Hope that the professor who told you that your future held amazing things was really thinking long-term. I was eating a box of Mozzarella Cheez-Its. Well, I was halfway through it, if we’re being honest, and I wiped the crumbs that were clinging to my lips onto my stomach, which is when I lifted my gaze to the rest of the room: a pile of clean-but-unfolded laundry was at the foot of my bed; six books were dustily stacked on my dresser, the ones I bought after graduating and swore I’d read this year; my bank statement was unopened on my nightstand; 30-Rock was looping on my laptop. Maybe a decent scene for a Saturday afternoon, but — tragically — it was 2:30 on a Tuesday. This first year is tough: Trying to find your voice and put into practice all the dreams you spent time refining in undergrad, the ones your professors said maybe — just maybe — could change the world for the better.
To my fellow recent grads: If your feet have dragged, if you’ve found yourselves deflated and painfully lonely — know that you’re not the only one who’s trying to make his way through the cloud of hookah smoke that is your first post-grad year. Here’s hoping the second one’s is a bit brighter.
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Try something today. Count how many times someone brings up some sort of mental illness in normal conversation. Add that number up and tell me it doesn’t strike you as kind of weird how many normal people walk around with the belief that there is something wrong with them.
She assumed it was jewelry. Every year he gets her a charm for her gold chain or a pair of dangly earrings.
Fall if you will, but rise you must.
You may lose what would have been the joy of the experience had you not been so focused on some fabricated idea or unrealistic expectation you had of how it was going to turn out.