The College Graduate’s Guide To Living At Home (Again)

Reality Bites
Reality Bites

Alas, another summer has wooed us, won us, and so swiftly escaped us. August and her melancholy sunsets have arrived— a reminder that Fall is near with crisp winds and quickly darkening nights. The advent of Autumn indicates that school and work must resume for most, but for the recent college graduate, ‘real life’ truly begins.

The thought of 9-to-5 jobs, commutes, and student loan payments brings sheer panic to the eyes of most twenty-two year olds (mine included). To make matters more complicated, the post-college transition into living back at home has proven to be more challenging than we had hoped.

College was our social playground for four (maybe five, maybe six…) infinite years. We had the freedom to party, date, pull all-nighters, fall on our faces (sometimes literally—thanks, Svedka), pick ourselves up, and somewhere along the way, find ourselves. We also had opportunities to study abroad, acquire cool internships, earn good grades, and graduate with already impressive résumés. In our minds, these accomplishments were huge, but now, suddenly, they have lost their value.

Living at home in ‘the real world,’ the competition of a global workplace has become extremely apparent. We realize that we are merely one of a thousand résumés on an employer’s desk. This dwindles the possibility of our lofty, yet once attainable dreams. What’s worse, living at home has detached us from our college lives and our former roles in campus activities and organizations. Our identities are now ambiguous, and our ambition to soar has been seriously deflated.

It’s the transition that all of our older friends warned us about: “Going back home is the worst,” they said, “I’m literally depressed and can’t get work anywhere.” Unable to pay rent (or unable to justify the financial burden of paying rent, when living at home is free), they had no choice; they went back home. And despite our most desperate and wildest attempts to avoid it, somehow, we ended up home, too.

Was it inevitable? Maybe not. Facebook shows us this every day, how others made it out of their hometowns and started their lives. We scroll through our news feed and witness what seems like hourly updates, posted by peers we once knew. They document their incredible life events— traveling, full-time job offers, grad. school acceptance letters, apartment leases, engagements… the never-ending list is overwhelming and frankly, uninspiring. Still, we post updates like these, too, and try to make our online presence as glamorous as possible.

On days when I sit and prune my Facebook profile, I have noticed that I’m not happy for the success I see unfolding for others. Since graduating in May, my life can’t compare to newlyweds, entry-levels, or first-apartment-dwellers! Theodore Roosevelt hit the nail on the head when he said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” True that, Teddy— I’m moody, ridiculously hard on myself, and my motivation is at an all-time low. How did this happen, and how do I get out of my own way?

My contemplations have resulted in a list of ideas to counter the effects of a post-graduation, postmortem experience. Maybe these ten tips will help you and I both through this woeful transition.

1. Don’t stop chasing your dreams.

This seems pretty obvious to the typical, twenty-something dreamer, right? We, the 90s kids, raised on the virtues of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, have always believed in the beauty of our dreams (cheers to you, Eleanor Roosevelt). Passionate and goal-oriented, we were prepared to pursue these ambitions and confident enough to chase them. We attended college to study our childhood aspirations, we crafted our hobbies into trades, and we looked towards the future with bright, hopeful eyes.

But ‘the real world’ (how I hate the phrase) doesn’t seem to notice. The ‘real world’ has made it clear that passion is not nearly enough. Networking, timing, and dumb luck are necessary, critical credentials in landing that dream job. Still, we are disheartened when the dream doesn’t come true, because we feel betrayed by lessons we have internalized from childhood. And for some, disappointment can transform a dreamer into a worker.

Don’t get me wrong— work is important and essential. But there is no need to give up on the things that make your happy, the hobbies that inspire you, or the dreams that you still weave through the sleepless hours of early morning.

Living at home does not need to make you stagnant. If you must work (as most of us do), then work. Work a lot. Save money. But try to keep the dreamer within you alive. Take an art class, volunteer for an organization, keep reading about your passion. Dig deeper. Your future self will thank you, and maybe with some dumb luck, the dream will one day come true.

2. Be kind to your parents.

With absolute independence once at our fingertips, living with Mom and Dad (again) can be a major buzzkill, not to mention a threat to one’s social life. Despite what it seems, they are not here to monitor your daily plans. In fact, they are probably hoping that this new, mature you will develop a stronger, more enjoyable relationship with them. Take advantage of the fact that you are older and more on their level than you have ever been. Their advice is more relevant as you enter adulthood.

If you are lucky enough to have parents, take this time to cherish them. Living at home (for free) is a luxury that some simply do not have. Home has the potential to be your shelter from the storms of life. Let your parents support you if they are able, and let them love you as best as they can.

3. Stay organized.

For me, being at home always results in laziness, boredom, and general clutter in my life (and my room). I find that I can’t declare a day productive unless I’ve drafted and completed a to-do list. Maybe it’s the Type-A Personality in me. Maybe my memory sucks.

Either way, lists make goals tangible. Jot down three to four tasks every day that need to be accomplished in a timely manner. You’ll get more done and feel better about the time spent at home. Plus, it’s always fun to cross off a task with a satisfied grin on your face (you know you do it).

Oh, and just clean your room, will you? I promise it will make your mother ecstatic.

4. Stay busy.

Don’t stop doing what you’re doing. The second you do, you’ll take five minutes to check your social media accounts, only to find twenty-nine additional reasons why the rest of the world is better than you.

Besides, the busier you are, the more growth you will see. Keep working, keep planning, keep doing, and the results will follow.

5. Sleep less.

Get your seven or eight hours, and wake the hell up. Sleeping in is a summertime syndrome— practically a sickness!— that robs your day of four to five hours. It also makes you more tired, more cranky, more moody, and less likely to be proactive, productive, or positive. So set an alarm! Wake up. Wake UP!

(No naps, either. You’re already awake, why waste the day away?)

6. Focus on friendships.

Again, if you are lucky enough to have them, cherish them. Spending summer nights with my ‘home friends’ always creates a surplus of happiness that lasts for days. My friends rejuvenate me. Let yours do the same.

Plus, planning to visit college friends offers weekends to look forward to, especially if you feel ‘stuck at home.’ Take the time to keep in touch; maintaining these long-distance friendships is important so that they don’t fade away.

7. Apply yourself, literally.

It’s pretty simple:

Update your résumé and submit it.

Apply for that dream job, even if you aren’t qualified.

Sell yourself in a cover letter so you get the interview.

Once you get the interview, prepare for it. And nail it.

Follow up with them.

Get the job. (Because you absolutely can.)

(Because you are one-hundred percent right for it.)

(Because you are the best. And you can be better.)

Always believe in yourself, and let your personality shine.

8. Get creative.

If you’re anything like me, your mind tends to decay without artistic stimulation. Even if you’re not creatively inclined, try to break up any monotony you may encounter at home.

Examples—

Make charts and draw diagrams to outline your plans. Write letters to friends or poems for yourself. Play an instrument, or try to learn how. Try to cook in your kitchen, even if you burn a meal or two. Redecorate your room. Create a spot in your house where you can work, create, read, or just relax without distractions.

Prove to yourself that life does not need to be dull, repetitive, or lackluster.

9. Take your time.

With all of these tips in mind, realize that you are young. Life may be short, but the days are long, and tomorrow will come. You have time to make your dreams your reality.

This is convenient, because odds are, your dream job will not land in your lap tomorrow, next month, or even this year. Climbing the ladder is a lengthy process, despite the constant stream of Facebook success stories that eat away at your self-confidence on the daily. Continue to move upward, one rung of the ladder at a time. Your time will come, and when it does, you will be more than ready.

10. Take a chance.

That being said, this is also a great time to risk it all. Pursue that hobby you always dismissed as trivial. Date someone totally wrong for you and live to tell the tale. Take a job that might not be the perfect fit. Make mistakes.

The time is now, especially while you have the support of family, the shelter of a home, the presence of friends, and the availability of food (very important). Life will not always be so generous, so use your resources to your advantage.

So please, reach for the beautiful stars that you have followed for so long. Your dreams are much closer than you think, and better than you have ever imagined. The best part? They are yours (and only yours) for the taking. Reach.

– – – – – –

This concludes my guidebook to surviving the underwhelming adventure of living at home after college. I will be glad if you can relate to any of the tips that I have shared. I will be thrilled if you have found some inspiration to continue chasing your dreams.

I hope you make the most of this critical transition in your life, despite how unimportant it seems. I hope this article helps. And I hope you keep going. Good things are absolutely on their way— just over the horizon. All you need to do now is look for the sunrise. TC mark

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