I remember two things about the day I graduated from college (or what I refer to as the worst day of my life). Firstly, my face was swollen. Senior week doesn’t do the body good. Second, there was a lump in my throat. That lump didn’t go away for a long time.
According to the family members who travel in masses to sit in stuffy auditoriums to witness you walk across the stage to get a piece of paper, college graduation is a day to celebrate.
And, it's well worth the hours you spend standing in front of flowers and trimmed bushes that were ironically planted the night before for picture-taking.
At the time, I wasn’t sure what was most painful about the day to me. Was it knowing the debt I would spend the next decade repaying would go toward purchasing more of those damn plants? Or was it my bloated cheeks from the fake smile I managed to sport during the peak of my hangover?
Obviously, I wasn’t having it. Sure, it felt good knowing I got a degree, but the sad reality of the situation was that I didn’t really care about what I was taking away from college. Instead, I cared more about what I was leaving behind.
Although, one thing I couldn’t take away, even if I had the chance, was a sliver of dignity. After all, I spent four years on campus walking, sleeping, waking, studying, eating, drinking, throwing up, losing my cell phone (and some teeth), falling down flights of stairs — I’ll stop there.
The point is, school became my home, and I loved the lifestyle that it afforded me. There, my roommates and extended friends became the equivalent to what my parents, cousins and old friends were at home.
Following graduation, the lump in my throat stayed put. It stayed when I returned to the place I said I’d never live again (my hometown), and it kept me company during all the interviews I blew.
My lump accompanied me to the first day of my first full-time job and to the horrifying two years there that followed.
Frankly, transitioning from college life to the real world is hell. But luckily, hell’s walls aren’t that thick. There is a lot of good that can come from this time. Here are some things you’ll eventually come to learn:
There’s a whole new definition to the term "independence"
In college, independence typically means you don't have to answer your parents' phone calls. Your biggest decision of the week was whether or not class was worth it.
Once you have that piece of paper (a degree), it makes sense to make use of it. Independence then shifts from the decision of attending class to whether or not you’re willing to begin a career. The process of landing a job is surprisingly seamless for some but excruciating for the rest of us.
Bottom line: The decisions you have to make after college carry more weight. But, the silver lining is that you’ll realize you have so much more control over your life than you did during the four years you woke up knowing what your routine would be.
Now, you can create a new routine, or not follow one at all.
A chance to relocate
Holding a degree might not put you on the fast track to your dream job, but it’ll steer you in the right direction. The possibilities of what you'll do next are endless.
For many entry-level jobs, a degree is the number-one requirement. This goes for many different fields, meaning you could apply for a job in Spain and possibly get it.
Alternatively, just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you have to immediately do something with it. So, why not put life on hold and travel? If you have got the funds (or just the spontaneity and the balls to do it), pack your bags.
Friends with the same interests
For the ones who landed jobs: Making friends with your coworkers is the way to go (if they’re up to your standards). Having friends at work makes up for having to wake up early and be responsible.
In college, it’s inevitable that you’ll find your circle, but most likely, the people with whom you spend every day won't be interested in leading the same life as you.
The difference with your coworkers is that you’ve ended up in the same workspace because you either share common interests, similar skills or career goals.
These are sometimes the characteristics we long for in a best friend. Having ambitions in common with a friend can be a nice additive in your life.
Make an effort to form that new circle.
Happy hour just got a lot happier
In college, happy hour is the pregame to the pregame. But in the college-grad-meets-real-world chapter, it’s the best part of your week. It makes up for the bullsh*t you put up with, and it also makes you appreciate the people with whom you’re toasting.
To add yet another element of greatness to happy hour post-college, you can now afford all those shots; whereas, your poor college self suffered through each gulp.
You’ll figure out all the things you don’t like
Maybe it’s where you live or with whom you live. Possibly the best part of getting out of your college bubble and moving on is doing new things to figure out what you want and don’t want in life.
This is when soul searching occurs — and this is coming from someone who isn’t sentimental in the slightest.
You’ll figure out whether or not you’re office material, or if making a living means bouncing around to different places until it feels right.
Unless you’re Jimmy Fallon — who, let's face it, is living the dream — people always have a harder time figuring out what they do like rather than what they don’t.
Pay attention to the things you don’t like and eliminate them -- that’s the key to happiness in my book.
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