It’s been one year since I graduated college and entered the big, bad, grown up world. Here’s everything I’ve learned.
School is expensive.
I knew this all along, but now I am blithely aware of it. Not only are my automatic payments towards my student loans constant reminders, but my desire to further my education is even more so. I would love to go back and get another Bachelor's degree or get my Masters, but I cannot justify taking out more loans when I will already be paying for my first degree for the next thirty or more years.
We have a tendency to only remember the good parts.
We do this in many aspects of life, once something has passed, we are blinded to the negative parts that we hated in the moment. Remember Freshman year when you couldn’t get a minute alone just to think, or cry, or be? How about that epic breakdown you had sophomore year when you didn’t know why you were there or if you made the right decision, or if you could make it? You called Dad crying hysterically and saying that it was all just a big waste of time, remember? What about Junior year finals week? You got the stomach flu right after you finished that test and you had one more class session to go to, so you had to beg your teacher to let you email your paper to her? Or the week senior year when your face blew up with that disgusting sinus infection and you were going to have to use up all of your excused absences during the first month? You don’t miss any of that. And there are more bad days, big fights, and epic breakdowns than that that you have just put out of your mind.
Friendships have gotten a lot harder.
Not only is it harder to make friends in the real world, but it’s harder to keep the ones you’ve already made. When you’re in school you are surrounded by people your own age and you know that you at least have a few things in common with them: you both chose that school, and you’re both students. Now you’re in the workforce. There are some people your own age, there are new office cliques you have to try and navigate and while yes, you have at least one commonality, you work in the same office, somehow it’s not as easy to make friends. At the end of your college career you swore you would keep in touch with your friends. But then you all go separate ways, some move out of state, some get married, some stay in school, and your lives become much more complicated and we become much more selective with what we do in our spare time.
You’ll always be young at heart.
My generation may straight up refuse to grow up, but at the end of the day, it is completely unavoidable. It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly you become a “grown up.” Is it when you graduate? Is it when you get your first job? First apartment? First house? Is it when you have your own dental insurance? Or is it when you set up a retirement plan? I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is that the cliché saying “Growing up doesn’t mean growing old” rings true to me. And although life will do it’s best to taint my child-like beliefs that most people are truly good, and that true love can always prevail, and that coloring can cure a bad mood, and that Looney Toons will always be the best thing to watch on TV, I refuse to let life keep me from being young at heart.
Despite all the negatives, you’ll still miss school.
I miss making my own schedules, and not having to worry about PTO. I miss the small town I went to college in. I miss the feeling I got when I pulled into the driveway when I came home for the weekend. I miss being surrounded by like-minded people, people who challenged me, and professors who pushed me.
I miss the late nights, staying up laughing, talking and sometimes crying with people who you will never forget. I miss being forced to write, whether it was about something I agreed with, struggled with, or genuinely didn’t care about, I had to write about it, and I had to do my best. I miss the coffee shops where an extra shot of espresso was a welcomed surprise. I miss the feeling of “We’re all in this together,” the school spirit, the rivalry games, the traditions. I miss the relationships you make and the lessons you learn. Good God, how I miss the intellectual stimulation and educated conversations.
But I think the thing I miss most of all is the feeling of purpose. I knew I was doing something important. And not everyone believed in my degree, or in me; but that didn’t matter, because at the end of the day I felt good about what I was doing. I was making a change in my life for the better, and I was a part of something that not everyone has the privilege to be a part of. And I had something going on in my life that I could be proud of.