“What are you doing after graduation?”
It's the dreaded question for any college senior or recent graduate.
Usually, the people asking this question are looking for an answer relating to work, but there are so many other things that happen after graduation that don’t relate to having a job.
And honestly, unless you have your dream job lined up after commencement, who the f*ck knows where you'll end up working.
From healthy-eating to hangovers, things start to change after graduation.
Some are good, some not so much. But either way, your post-graduation life can be defined by plenty of things other than a job.
Here's what starts happening in your life (not at your job) after you graduate:
1. You start getting hangovers.
If you were lucky enough that the downward spiral didn't start during your senior year, hold on because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Yes, there’s an actual reason why hangovers get worse as you get older, so even if it doesn’t happen as soon as you leave campus, it’s coming.
This is definitely on the “con” list for post-graduation occurrences, but feel comforted by the fact that you are not alone! It happens to the best of us.
And, if you’re not to the point where drinking a bottle of wine gives you an all-day headache? Live it up while you can, my friend.
2. You want to ditch the jerks for gentlemen.
Every friend has heard it before (in case you haven’t said it yourself): “I want to meet a nice guy tonight. Like, a gentleman.
Someone who will buy me a drink… multiple drinks. Okay… I just want to make out with someone tonight!”
College is fun and it’s a great time to have a few sexy flings. But, those one or two-night stands rarely turn into long-term love, often because the guys just aren’t very genuine.
I’m not saying every girl needs to find a man straight out of college; there is so much freedom in living that single life!
But, when the time comes to find more of a long-term deal, it becomes clear that the assh*les just aren’t up to par.
3. You want to travel for the culture, not just the parties.
For spring break my senior year, my best friends and I went to Las Vegas. It. Was. Amazing.
We lounged by the pool, got free drinks and stayed out until 4 am flirting with boys.
But, as we were planning the trip, one of us mentioned going the Grand Canyon as a way to expand our experiences beyond the Strip.
The idea was quickly shot down because a trip to the Grand Canyon would obviously take precious partying days away. How could we do that?!
If I could do it all again, I would absolutely take the scenic detour. The night clubs and the table service were a blast, but looking back at it, every night was pretty similar.
After graduation, you start to realize a new city is so much more than the hottest clubs, but rather, it’s about the people, the sights and the culture around you.
Don’t get me wrong; I love a good party.
But if you’re spending money to fly to a new place, it makes sense to experience the things that make a city unique and to see something other than the inside of a dark, smoky room.
4. You have to make an effort to keep in touch with the people who matter to you.
I lived with my best friend all four years of college. But, I haven't seen her since our May 2014 graduation.
We didn’t have a falling out, we just live on opposite sides of the country. And it is damn expensive to buy plane tickets and pay for rent, too.
College spoils you in the sense that all of your friends are within a 2-mile radius, if they’re not living in the same place as you.
You can come home from class and have your best friend there, ready to listen to you vent about the b*tch of a test you just took.
But after graduation, people tend to spread out, and then you have to work a lot harder to keep up with your friends’ lives.
It kills me that it’s been a year since I’ve seen most of my best college friends, but thanks to group text messages and phone calls, I can still call them my best friends.
Would I have ever thought about calling them up to chat on the phone when we were in school? Not likely.
But that’s the kind of effort that goes into maintaining a long-distance relationship.
5. You start to understand why it’s great to eat healthy (most of the time).
Before I explain why smoothies are actually amazing (sans alcohol), I have to say that I am madly in love with pizza.
Nothing beats a night with beer and a cheesy Domino’s pie, but I feel a lot better the next morning when I eat a dinner with some home-cooked veggies.
In college, the dining hall french fries and the Taco Bell across the street were go-to meals for any day and any time. But in the real world, that’s not so easy to get away with.
You start to learn that nutritious food gives you tons of energy to get through the day, and it can taste good, too.
There’s satisfaction in going to the grocery store or farmers' market and cooking a delicious meal that doesn’t leave you feeling greasy and bloated (looking at you, Taco Bell).
Even if you’re on the go, a protein-packed smoothie bowl is perfect for helping you take on whatever the day throws at you, whether it’s a crazy boss or a flat tire on the way to work.
Luckily, healthy food is super trendy right now, so it’s easy enough to find something that’s good for you and tastes great.
6. …And you start to understand why people exercise.
There weren’t many times when I finished taking a test and thought, “Yes! I’m going to go for a 5-mile run!” It was more like, “Why don’t I have a glass of wine in my hand right now?”
Exercising in college was more of a thing that happened when it was convenient or when bikini season was coming up.
But similar to eating healthy, after graduation, you might just find that working out can make you feel good.
It’s a way to challenge yourself in a non-mental way. It’s a way to push yourself without tons of pressure.
I’m not saying that you’ll start going to the gym every single day after graduation, but it might not seem like the worst thing in the world.
Just like getting an "A" on a test feels amazing, so does beating your personal record on a run (no matter the distance).
7. You realize what actually makes you happy.
Job or no job, life after college gives you time to think about what you actually enjoy doing.
Gone is the pressure of finishing homework or passing a test.
The real world opens up your schedule and gives you more time to pursue your passions.
Yes, homework is replaced with managing your money and tests are replaced with working, but overall, life after college offers the opportunity to enjoy your hobbies.
Whether it’s joining a soccer league, making DIY crafts or learning a new instrument, you finally have free time to do anything you want.
To be honest, I’m still figuring out what makes me happy a year after graduation.
The stress that comes with finding a job can almost be worse than knowing you’re about to totally bomb a test.
But slowly, you start to realize that as an adult, you can take a step back from the craziness of it all and take some time to enjoy yourself.
All of these things might not happen right away (hopefully, the hangover part takes some time), and yes, finding a job is important, but the real world is so much more than that.
It doesn’t have to be miserable. Instead, it should be a learning experience about figuring out who you are and how you will make yourself happy.