October 6, 2016

Defining Who You Are Post-Graduation Is A Very Weird Journey

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Ryan Pouncy
Ryan Pouncy

What haven’t people told you about post-grad? Turns out, it could be a lot—and it’s different for everyone.

I’ve never really been good at living in the present. I’ve always lived for the hopeful successes of my future. It wasn’t really a choice; I was taught to live this way since as long as I can remember.

In high school, I worked tremendously hard to get into a good college. In college, I did the same so I could put myself in the position to get a good job. I never really stopped to breathe. Since May of this year, I’ve begun living in the present.

College ended like that. I never felt like I received any real closure. Professors wished me well and helped me network, they warned me about working long hours and that the real world would be much less social. All of this I was ready for, but I wasn’t ready for everything.

I shook the president of my university’s hand, took my diploma, and charged into the real world, ready to take on whatever was thrown at me.

Regardless of my exciting job, I still hit the post-graduation wall that I was frantically cautioned about by my friends and professors. It was weird at first. It came over so slowly that when it completely hit me, it really hit me.

The transition is different for everyone. Some wish they could go back to their college days while others wish they lived their years in college differently. Some are so happy to graduate that they never have a second thought about college once it’s over.

I felt ready for the real world—and in a lot of ways I was so ready. In the workplace, I was more than prepared. It’s outside my job that I’ve found my struggle…

In college, you’re normally balancing what feels like a hundred things, but when you graduate and begin working, it can sometimes feel like all you have is your job. When I began working, I realized I thought I lost a lot of who I was. I felt the need to define who I was just through my professional work.

I quickly learned that wasn’t going to work, so I took my self-confusion as an opportunity to get back into running, plan trips, and find other interests. I’ve taken a deep interest in self-reflection, mostly because I have the time to do so. I’m now beginning to build who I am, but it comes as a challenge on nearly a daily basis—really defining “me.”

Another thing that came as a surprise was realizing that I have to work at my happiness (not just my job). In college I was usually too busy to take a pulse check of my happiness. I enjoyed being busy, what I was involved with and who I surrounded myself around. Now, I am given the gift of time—which gives me the ability to think and reflect. More time to focus on my passions, friends and family. This has been a great addition to my life, but also a very difficult adjustment and is always a work in progress.

And finally, getting back to that living in the present notion. This has by far been the greatest and most challenging part of the post grad transition for me. I imagine a lot of my generation must struggle with this, and especially recent college grads. We’ve always had to be so focused on our future.

I really began looking at my life through a different lens when I realized I could start enjoying the present and not have to think about four years down the line where I may be. This has also presented several challenges for me. The biggest—looking into the future and not knowing where I’ll be. I’m beginning to attempt to see this as an exciting thing, but for now, the thought scares the hell out of me. When you’ve lived your life one way for at least a decade, it’s hard to change your mindset.

My real world experience so far has been everything and nothing I thought it would be. It’s honestly a lot less stressful than college (so far) and I’m taking everything in for the first time in a long time. It’s been the weirdest time of my life. Everyone’s in a different place, and it can be harder to relate at times. What brings every recent graduate together in this really strange journey is knowing we’re all going through immense change collectively. Let’s face it—a lot changes, and a new chapter of our lives begin.

I’m not sure how long this journey of navigating the real world post college will last, but here’s to knowing that hard work brings you great opportunities, and that there are so, so many ahead! TC mark

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