Someone has been spreading a rumor that your college years are your “formative years,” that college is a time to learn about yourself and what you want to do with your life. There’s a notion that after college, your job is your life and your job is what you majored in during college; that there are no extracurriculars out in the real world.
However, I think its time we all realized that the real world is just like college. There are classes you can take and people in the world left to meet. There are literary journals that you can submit writing to, and festivals that you can submit a film you made with your iPhone to. There are parties you can attend where you don’t know anyone and I promise you, for better or for worse, you will feel like a college freshman all over again.
The friends you made in college are people that were in close proximity to you. You hung out with them because they were in your same class and lived in the same dorm. Proximity shouldn’t be mistaken for closeness. There is a lot of pressure to remain close to the people you were friends with in college, a constant need to stay in touch. While this practice can provide a sense of community and comfort, it certainly should not dictate your friendships for the rest of your life.
College was a time for social and intellectual growth, for self-discovery and exploration, but isn’t that exactly what all of life should be as well? I don’t think I’m the only one that wants to continue growing as a person and as an individual beyond my college years. My best friend in college was a girl who I befriended primarily because she liked drinking and partying just as much as I did. Is that the person that I want to be my bridesmaid? Probably not.
In college, I majored in media studies and told people I wanted to be a filmmaker. While I love films and know that they will always be a big part of my life, I’m not so sure that the dream of being a filmmaker I convinced myself I had when I was 18 is really what I’m trying to do with my life. I always cringe when my friends ask me if I’m working on any new scripts or introduce me as their friend the filmmaker.
The way I defined myself in college has lingered into the real world. The good news is that I can always redefine myself, and I can do it as many times as I want. I recently started working at an online dating site as a “matchmaker.” While introducing myself as such is always an excellent conversation starter, I’ll often introduce myself as a writer or a photographer, or whatever hat I’m trying on that month or that week.
Life is just like college, if you let it. If you move out of the apartment that you share with your friend from college and find a roommate on Gypsy Housing. If you push yourself to continue learning, taking the language class that you didn’t have time to take in college or a mixology class simply because bartending is sexy. Or if you make yourself uncomfortable by going to a party in Astoria that your second cousin invited you to and talk to people who didn’t have the exact same experience for the past four years that you did. Communities can be comforting and nostalgic and a lot of other great things, but they can also be stifling.
So next time you get invited to an “Insert College Name Here Alumni Mixer” consider declining the invitation and instead attending a gallery opening where you don’t know anyone, or go to a karaoke bar by yourself. But don’t go to the mixer so that you can pat each other on the back for having read the same books and sharing the same opinions. Don’t be defined by who you were a year ago, or even last week, strive to know yourself more everyday, its never too late to redefine who you are.