1. Make sure the sexiest of your three part-time jobs is the one that’s visible on your Facebook. Unless you studied something relatively marketable (read: Engineering, Accounting), chances are high that you — like I — are juggling multiple jobs to pay for rent/car insurance/food/something-to-do-besides-sitting-on-your-couch-and-watching-hulu. Since Facebook only makes one employer visible, you’ll put up the one that impresses people most — even if you only do it for five hours a week. A similar section could be titled, “List yourself as a graduate student as soon you get accepted, even if it’s seven months before classes start.”
2. Shyly make an online dating profile. Tell anyone who asks about it that a friend made it for you. Delete it a few months later. There’s something terrifying about not being in a condensed community of your peers anymore. When every person you walk by isn’t within 5-ish years of you and relatively attractive, you start to believe that you’re the only twenty-two year old out there. Fear of life-long loneliness will likely compel you to your laptop at 1 AM, and your fingers will — almost uncontrollably — type out the supposed solution to your terror: Match or eHarmony or OkCupid or whatever. If you’re anything like me, after a few failed attempts — and a bucket-full of weird-ass intro sentences — you’ll decide that you’d rather risk eternal solitude than get another email.
3. Realize that traveling doesn’t fix your problems. A week after I graduated, I was on a transatlantic flight to London for a three-week trip across Western Europe. I traveled because I expected new cities to whisper some ancestral secret to me. I expected them to reflect my destiny on the buildings of their foreign downtowns, that the anxieties that haunted me in San Diego would somehow stay there if I flew away fast enough. Maybe it’s because I was reading The Bell Jar, or maybe it’s because I’d been traveling for a couple weeks by then, but in a second-story coffee shop in Berlin I realized that wherever I traveled, my same, age-old neuroses would follow: My fears, and regrets, and unresolved conflicts snuck their way into my suitcase and spilled out onto the hostel-room floor along with my boxers. Plath says it best, “If [she] had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made one scrap of a difference to me, because wherever I sat — on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok — I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” The trick, I’ve learned, is finding the courage to lift the jar wherever I find myself.
4. Hope that the professor who told you that your future held amazing things was really thinking long-term. I was eating a box of Mozzarella Cheez-Its. Well, I was halfway through it, if we’re being honest, and I wiped the crumbs that were clinging to my lips onto my stomach, which is when I lifted my gaze to the rest of the room: a pile of clean-but-unfolded laundry was at the foot of my bed; six books were dustily stacked on my dresser, the ones I bought after graduating and swore I’d read this year; my bank statement was unopened on my nightstand; 30-Rock was looping on my laptop. Maybe a decent scene for a Saturday afternoon, but — tragically — it was 2:30 on a Tuesday. This first year is tough: Trying to find your voice and put into practice all the dreams you spent time refining in undergrad, the ones your professors said maybe — just maybe — could change the world for the better.
To my fellow recent grads: If your feet have dragged, if you’ve found yourselves deflated and painfully lonely — know that you’re not the only one who’s trying to make his way through the cloud of hookah smoke that is your first post-grad year. Here’s hoping the second one’s is a bit brighter.
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