A Message To Recent Grads, From Someone Who's Already In The Real World

Graduation was like a warm welcome to adulthood. You were given mortarboards and gowns that, for a second, made you feel like royalty for achieving something. Some guest gave a speech that probably made you feel like the world was your oyster.

And so, even if you were but a speck in the graduating class of [insert year], you felt like you were somehow different.

Then there was the obligatory student speaker who brought back memories that made you chuckle like your grandparents would when reminiscing about the "good old days." Your years at college had, in a mere moment, become a nostalgic past that summoned a bittersweet laugh.

But regardless of the good times, after four years of college, most of us couldn't wait to dive into the real world. Now, I'm not so sure why.

Well, I sort of am.

When you're a college student, adulthood is like that super lush-looking sofa that your eyes brighten at the sight of.

You jump up, expecting to be swallowed by a fluffy cloud, just to get smacked into the wooden plank and thin cushioning that bruises your bum and leaves you winded.

It doesn't meet your expectations.

The good thing is it doesn't hit you all at once. Right after graduation, you're probably an unemployed fresh graduate. After six months, the “fresh” drops and you are probably just an unemployed graduate. You can no longer don the title of a fresh graduate after another batch of graduates has been churned out.

In reality, if you're still unemployed after six months, without the title of "fresh grad" to glamorize unemployment, you're just one of society's seasoned jobless hobos.

Then you hit the one-year mark, when you've gone full circle, and you become just another (hopefully employed) adult -- no graduate, no nothing. This is when you start to feel your ass hit the wooden plank. The novelty of the idea of being an adult is overshadowed by the actual act of it.

In the year that I've gotten to be an "adult," there were three realizations I had that failed my idealization of adult life.

Since I wish someone had told me about all of this sooner, I've taken it upon myself to share these realizations with you, in case you haven't already had them.

1. You're on your own

I don't mean that you will be alone forever and die a spinster or sad bachelor, but that you are your own person. You have the agency in your life to become something or be nothing.

Everything that used to restrict you and guide you has steadily dialed out since your transition from high school to college. Now more than ever, you have to be your biggest cheerleader and biggest critic.

Help is scarce and motivation must be self-served. So it doesn't mean anything for the world to be your oyster if you're not going to seize it.

Not to mention that, even if you don't, not many people will give you grief about it because there's only so much someone else can do to push you when he or she has their own lives to be concerned about.

Everyone is just looking out for him or herself. Being herded in classrooms and lecture halls for 20+ years and uniting in mutual hate for school might have given you the illusion of solidarity, but it was always all on you.

It just took a while for this fact to become inescapable. The sooner you know this, the better off you are.

2. Time is not on your side

On the one hand, are the "big" things in life like getting married, having children and being successful that all zero in on you as the years go by.

The narrowing gap between your age and the age you aim to achieve these things feel like two walls closing in on you, inciting a sort of temporary claustrophobia. These are the things we wish we had more time for to ease up the pressure.

Then there are small things that take a back seat to the big ones like working out, doing some leisurely reading, keeping in contact with a friend or family or doing something you promised you'd do. These are the things that we have time for but convince ourselves that we don't.

In short, you want more time when there's a limited amount, and you don't use enough of it when there's ample amount. So yes, in many ways, time isn't on your side, but here's what you have to remember to make it your b*tch.

It's not about having time, it's about making time. Making time means that in life, there are no excuses -- ever.

So when you ever catch yourself justifying not doing something by not having time, remember it's not that you don't have time, but that you are not making time. Here's why I say:

  • Working out for half an hour only takes up 2 percent of your day
  • Dropping a friend or family a message once in a while takes up less than 1 percent of your day
  • Reading an hour everyday only takes up 4 percent of your day

You not doing something comes down to you, and you cannot make time the scapegoat.

People don't want to age or face certain things that come with age. So while time is not on our side, it is up to us to do what we can to make the most out of it, especially because it is so fleeting.

3. Routine

What I didn't realize until half a year after graduation was that life and work are repetitive. A lot of what we do will not be new, exciting or adventurous.

For most of us, work will be nine to five (if you're lucky), Monday through Friday and at one point the most exciting part of your day might be drafting a well-written email.

School wasn't exactly exhilarating by comparison, but you could always count on a looming deadline to spice things up a little. This ties in with time not being on your side, because even with daily life being full of routine after graduation, it is up to you to find the stimulation in it.

You have to make time to try new things, set goals, fulfil resolutions, etc. A lot of what we experience in life is what we make of it, so routine doesn't have to mean 'static' and 'boring' if we take the necessary steps to expand our lives.

I should also add that routine implies stability, which is a privilege not afforded to many. It's not always a bad thing to know what to expect every day.

If you imagine the alternative of never knowing what to expect, routine doesn't seem so bad anymore.

Don't take routine for granted, but don't get too comfortable either.

It's been a year since my graduation, and a year of managing expectations at that. But now that I have, I feel a lot more equipped to deal with the future head on and I have to say, even with tempered expectations, I'm still very excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. So cheers to that.

Originally seen in Opinion Jam

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