Older And Wiser: 16 Things I've Learned In The Year Since Graduation

by Kirsten Corley

A year ago, I walked across that stage with applause, uncertain of my future.

I said goodbye to my best friends, and I cried upon hugging that one professor, the one who knew more about me than my parents did.

I was embarking on a journey they call adulthood.

What I didn’t realize was the lessons I would learn weren’t over just because school was. In fact, they were only just beginning.

So if I could give myself advice 365 days ago, this is what I would say to all the recent graduates and myself:

1. Finding a job is a job in itself

If you haven’t found a job yet, first be patient. Also, understand that in the next year of your life, you will see more rejection letters than you will know what to do with.

There will be times when you will just want to give up and roll into a ball.

You will think back to those afternoon naps you took advantage of between classes, and wish you appreciated it more then.

But, good things are coming, you just have to be patient and keep working.

It’s an unpaid job, every day of the week, but eventually you will figure it out.

2. Don't take the first job you get

It may feel like you don’t have any other options, but really evaluate the offer and think about it for a few days. The first job offer you get isn't necessarily the right one.

It may not seem like it as a recent graduate, but you will come across a lot of opportunities, and they will seem great. But sometimes, you'll have to walk away because you deserve better.

3. Don’t be afraid to travel

If I knew how long it would be until I got my first job, I would have taken my graduation money and been on the first flight to Europe.

You are young, and even within the next year of your life, whether you have a job or not, you will find yourself obligated to certain people and things.

Whether it’s a charity you are involved in, a career, a relationship or a friendship, leave before you get tied down, because suddenly, you will have obligations.

You will always have something to come back to and there will always be jobs waiting. I know that’s hard to believe, but jobs are out there.

4. Don’t be afraid of internships

You are a recent college graduate, so unfortunately, no one trusts you. You have to work your way up sometimes.

Internships allow you to prove yourself while testing the water to see if you even like it. If you don’t like the internship, I promise, you will not like the job.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others

If you don’t have it figured out just yet, don’t think everyone else does, too. Don’t look at others as competition; you're living you life. Don’t think the grass is greener, just focus on you and your journey.

6. Your first job will not be your dream job

No one likes an entry level position. The only thing worse would be an internship. But, you have to work your way up to your dream job.

Very few start out doing something they love. Do something you can at least tolerate and do well, and then you will keep advancing.

If you can’t handle it at an entry level position, you will never get promoted.

7. Don’t believe anyone who says you can’t accomplish your dreams

Everyone will tell you what they think you should do. Don't listen to any of it.

8. That first fall away from college will leave you a little depressed

You will see the Thursday night Snapchats of your friends at college, as you go to bed at 9 and you will be sad, no doubt about it.

But life does happen, and sadly the four-year party does end. But for every good thing you leave behind, something better is coming.

9. Trust yourself

You know yourself the best, you know what you want and you know what is best for you. Do not let pressure convince you to give the reins to someone else directing your life.

The only way to live a happy life is to make every decision yourself. This way, when you look in the mirror, it's all on you and no one else.

10. You will come across at least one devastating heartbreak

Whether it’s a breakup, getting fired or death of a friend, in the next year of your life, you will encounter one thing that breaks your heart and leaves you crying yourself to sleep at night.

Life’s greatest lesson here is in how you respond to this.

11. You will have to make time for your friends

The time when you were able to walk down the hallway to see your best friend at 2 am is long over.

Seeing your friends is something you need to put effort into.

You need to plan in advance, compare schedules and confirm plans. You will be between trains and buses and hour lunch breaks and next thing you know, when you finally remember to text so and so, you realize it's been months.

Friendship is tested now more than ever when you have so many new things happening in your life.

12. Free time does not exist much

The days of waking up at 11 am, going to brunch and taking naps no longer exist.

Your schedule will now consist of waking up at 6 am, getting ready, heading to work, coming home, eating and having time for one or two activities before going to bed at 9 pm.

In between that, you need to fit in going to the gym, making time for friends, family and relationships. You will learn the value of Friday to Sunday.

13. Thank your parents

Whether you live with them after college, they paid for your college or continue to support you in the beginning, thank them for getting you this far.

It may seem tough moving back home and living with their rules, but remember you are lucky to even have the option. No matter how adult we become, we all need our parents.

14. There will be at least one fork-in-the-road decision you have to make

It may be between two jobs, or maybe you got into graduate school but you want to start your career first, but there will be at least one difficult choice you have to make.

You will have to live with it, even if you realize later it was the wrong choice.

15. Home won't be as you remembered it

You left home at 18, and now you are 22. You aren’t the same person you were four years ago, and the thing you must realize is the people you once idolized may not be the same people either.

People may no longer like who you became at college, and you may lose people who were once important. But, you also gain the people who will be your lifetime friends.

The roads may look the same, and each will trigger a memory, but don’t let the past haunt you. Don’t resent being home, and allow yourself to make new memories.

But most of all, you’ll come to realize that place may not even feel like home anymore.

To you, home was that small town that consumed four years of your life, but you will adjust, just like you did years ago.

16. Don’t be afraid of starting brand new in a place you know no one

You may get a job offer in a state or country you have never been before; don't be afraid to take it.

You just may discover yourself in the process of being placed somewhere completely new.