The Part About Graduating That College Doesn’t Prepare You For At All

woman wearing black academic coat near tree in front of fence
princess olanrewaju / Unsplash

When you start college, you’re not thinking about walking across the stage at graduation. It’s years away, and all you’re focused on is adjusting to this newfound freedom and self-discovery.

You’ll eat waffles for dinner at midnight with a group of new friends from your dorm. You’ll learn to deal with the hair clumps that are left in the shower, and be very grateful for your $4 shower shoes from Target. You’ll be hungover and late to class after a night of intense drinking games and a plastic handle of vodka with your roommates. You’ll explore new cities, be exposed to ideas you’ve never considered, challenged to look at life through new perspectives, and learn a whole hell of a lot more about life outside of the classroom than you will inside.

But one day, you have to walk across that stage.

You’ll be forced to leave behind this life that you built entirely for yourself, and figure out how you fit into this complicated, harsh and incredible world.

Nothing prepares you for that transition. It’s the most exciting, terrifying and lonely time of your life. Your purpose has shifted from the path society has set for you in school to one that is entirely your own. No one is telling you what you are doing right or wrong, giving you grades or pushing you through the process. You’re left to put the pieces together on your own, and that shit is scary.

It’s mentally and physically draining. You can’t pinpoint any one thing that is wrong, yet you still feel depressed, anxious or numb. Hobbies become more like chores, social events feel like unneeded stressors, and it feels like time is just passing you by and all you can do is go through the motions. To make it worse, other people make it seem like they have their shit together on social media (trust me, they don’t). You can’t seem to figure out why you’re stuck in the dark when you have all of this opportunity in front of you.

There are going to be days when you just want to order pizza and lay in your bed to forget that there’s an entire functioning world outside your door. Change is hard and it will take a toll on how you see yourself, your choices and your passions. It gets pretty easy to step out of tune with yourself when your entire world is changing drastically, but it doesn’t stay that way forever.

One day, it will all click. You’ll realize that this shift in identity doesn’t mean that you’ve lost yourself or the life that you were living; you are growing. Let yourself learn to exist in this new space, but give yourself time. No one finds their place or their purpose the second things change. The journey to finding yourself in this new chaotic time of conflicting feelings and emotions is draining, but it’s all part of becoming the person that you’ve been working towards your entire life. If you weren’t feeling this, you’d always be the exact same kid you were in college.

Take the time to focus on yourself. This is the time to question what you want out of life and how you want to experience the world. Explore what makes you happy and decide what truly matters to you now that college has shown you life through different lenses. Forging your own path is scary, but it’s what helps you find yourself in a world full of distractions and hurdles.

This darkness is fleeting – and soon enough you’ll see your path. TC mark

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