4 Things You’ll Do The First Year You’re A Post-Grad

It’s now officially been a year since I finished undergrad, and — though my experience is limited — there are a few things I’ve discovered that some people do during their first post-grad year.

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. TC mark

All information provided in this article is for reference purposes only.

image – Ben Novakovic


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  • Nishant

    The second year is NOT better. In the middle of it right now. But then again, that depends on how your 2 years are structured in your education system.

    For me, I found traveling to be healing and cathartic. But if you’re going to quote Plath, I’m afraid everything will be sad and depressing.

    • http://twitter.com/todd_clayton Todd Clayton

      Hhahaha.  Plath does seem to put a damper on everything.  To be fair: I loved travelling and am so glad I did it.  #3 was just part of the experience that I wasn’t really expecting.  

  • Male

    I think your problem was that you were reading The Bell Jar in the first place, not exactly a heart warmer.

  • Patrick Crooks

    great read! I look forward to checking out your website!

  • Hjdube4129

    I’m in my 7th year… now contemplating a grad degree.  It’s better, but only because I’m employed.  Whoo.  But life still sucks.  The professor(s) who told you great things lay in the future was lying.  Travel is fun I’ll say that.  But ultimately, that’s what it’s good for.

    • Iamsoy

      holy depressing

  • Ben Empey

    I just crossed over into the second year post-grad and this all still applies. SIGH.

  • Bear Doubt

    How dare you hold a mirror up to how irredeemably pretentious the internal monologue of a traveler is. I don’t care how shameless you are, for some of us to maintain the facade of self-respect we have to disavow ever having had those thoughts. Nobody wants a reminder of their hollow contemplations, that were oh so meaningful, in some shabby-chic cafe while romanticising their disney-esque experience of dislocation and dispossession.

    Postgrad thinking of dropping out and getting back on the road… until now.

    • Bear Doubt

      PS: I forgot to mention I really like this article

  • http://www.facebook.com/bmcarmouche Brett Michael Carmouché

    Damn this man named Todd Clayton and his amazing writing (and ability to descrive so perfectly my experience(s).

    I joke of course (about the damning part)

  • Anonymous

    I finished with school on Wednesday and I absolutely LOVE you for writing this. 

  • Mila Jaroniec

    God oh God, #1 forever. This is why my Facebook profile says “Freelance Writer at Thought Catalog.”

    I felt weird listing my grad program when I got accepted, but since it’s only 3 months away I will go do it now.

    • http://twitter.com/todd_clayton Todd Clayton

      AAahahahahah.  That’s totally what mine says, too.  

    • Jake

      mine says “Freelance Commenter at Thought Catalog.”
      on avg I dedicate ~4 hrs/wk

  • _db

    #1&2 are so true. I almost put down my grad program, but it felt like cheating. Will do now.

  • ariel

    Traveling is probably the best thing I have done since I have graduated (almost 3 years ago…gulp). It made me feel as if I did something right and wasn’t wasting my time because I go to go see all of the amazing sights the world has to offer. I figure if I am still working shitty jobs at least I’ll get to travel sometimes. But the rest of the article, spot on. Especially the online dating tidbit. . 

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    Reblogged this on [working title] and commented:
    Don’t worry Todd, my second one is much better so far. And I experienced all of the same things you did the first year.

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