You’re walking down the aisle in a long gown. You look around and see a hundred happy faces, those of your friends and family who are here to celebrate you. Finally, you think, this day has come. As you approach the end of the aisle, you get a buzzy feeling in your toes and your mouth opens in a wide smile. Then at last you reach the stage, shake the Dean’s hand, and receive your diploma. BOOM – you just graduated from college.
Completing that rite of passage from student to self-sufficient adult is thrilling, but hardly a breezy transition. As my own first graduation anniversary draws near, I can’t help but reflect on how different my life has become since I left the education system. While paying off my student loans and exceeding my personal line of credit is certainly a blast, there are times when I miss my old university. For all those who graduate this year and in years to come, I have a warning: though you may have that lovely gilded paper framed on your wall, it doesn’t mean that you’ve stopped learning altogether. Nah, you’re just getting started. This is when you learn what taxes are, and insurance, and how to cook for yourself! This is that time when the term “with benefits” extends past your sex life and starts becoming a qualifier in job descriptions. You just entered the college oflife! Ahead, take a peek at what the newly-grad life is really about.
1. They’re “Hobbies,” not “Extracurriculars”
When you’re younger, it feels as though all of your free time is taken up by homework, or student council meetings, or volleyball practice, or band rehearsal, so you can prove on your college application that you are a well-rounded, decent human being who can work with a team and play something other than “Hot Cross Buns” on your French horn. But once you graduate, all that is basically required of you is to keep up with your work schedule. All of the extracurricular activities you used to take part in are no longer mandatory and you suddenly find yourself with almost too much free time, all of which is likely spent browsing Facebook trying to figure out if all of your classmates are as successful/pathetic as you.
And this, kiddos, is why bowling leagues happen.
Your mind and body will always crave to learn new things, and your brand new entrance into the world is the perfect opportunity for you to expand on an interest or pick a new one. Be it yoga, home brewing cider, surfing, or gardening, there’s going to be something that will catch your attention and make you think, I can do that. Who knows? Maybe in a few years, your business idea of creating necklaces out of old soda tabs will take off and make you a millennial millionaire.
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2. Your Junior Year Self Can Beat Your Current Self in a Drink-Off
If you went to a college like mine, chances are you were out almost every weekend partying in celebration of any and all holidays the U.S. calendar had to offer. (Not entirely sure which federal holiday an “Angels and Devils”-themed party falls under…) Although you were drinking until 2am three days out of the week, you were still able to wake up in time for your 8am class and ace the midterm, no sweat. Coor’s Lite was the fountain of youth, and you were swimming in it with all of your undefeatable 20-year-old glory.
However, once graduation has happened and real life kicks in, it becomes increasingly obvious that that lifestyle is one that must be left in the past. Whereas scattered class schedules and long weekends made for a bustling social life, coming home from a 9-5 tends to make you tired enough for one beer, which in turn tires you out enough for bedtime. Pretty soon, your alcohol tolerance level plummets, and the next time you go out on the town, you find yourself staring into the abyss of a bar toilet, wondering how it came to this. What happened to the energy and invincibility of your youth? Are you really never drinking vodka again? And will you even be able to get up in time for work in the morning? With a sigh, you flush down the remains of your jaegerbombed past; who needs to be that wasted anyway?
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3. You Become Your Own Secretary
Along with having to bear the burden of a “light drinker” also comes the burden of being your own secretary. Waking up for that 8am class wasn’t the most important thing in the world, and skipping it would not reveal totally terrible consequences, but being late to your 8am meeting calls for a stern talk from your manager and has a bunch of people questioning, “Is she really fit for this job?” This is why time management becomes of the utmost importance after graduation. The simple responsibility of being in a certain place at a precise time can be harder than it sounds, and try as you might, every once in a while you may find that life gets the best of you, and time will slip through your fingers (despite the arrival of the Apple Watch). Whether your reliability is compromised by a quarter-life crisis or just because you tried to regain your aforementioned “college glory” at the bar, just rest assured knowing that this happens to everyone and this is why some people have actual secretaries – you’re just too poor to afford one right now.
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4. The Seasons Change
At long last, it has happened. Midterm season has become tax season and you have finally learned what taxes are.
Right? You did learn that, right?
For those of us who failed to ever take an economics course, tax season can be one of the most confusingly rewarding times of the year. Rewarding because of tax returns; confusing because you don’t understand how you got all that sweet, sweet money back. I, for one, turned to the ever trusty YouTube for answers about our government’s tax system and had the majority of the details laid out for me. Unfortunately, I forgot everything once tax season was over.
In the same way testing season (or “spring” as it is commonly called) becomes tax season, winter becomes “high electric bills” season, fall is “oh no our electric bill is going to get higher” season, and summer is “spend all our money because our electric bill is low and I just got a huge tax return” season. Just think of it as bank account hibernation.
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5. The “I Missed My Midterm” Nightmares Never End
Our parents first told us this, but we’ve since learned firsthand – you will never get over the stress of testing season. Trust us – when you see all of your friends who are still in school complaining on the Internet about midterms and finals, you will laugh and willingly stay up past 2:00 am to binge-watch Orange is the New Black just to prove how adult you are. But later in the night, you will wake up in a cold sweat with your laptop glowing next to you, certain that you had fallen asleep in the middle of an exam review.
Spoiler Alert: It will suck.
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Being in a post-college phase during your early 20s isn’t all budgeting and work. Although it may come with the navigational twists and turns of reaching full adulthood, getting to claim your independence is pretty rad. In the end, when you’re 40 and have your life together, you’ll realize that it was all worth it, and you may even miss the adventures of the lifestyle you have now. So treasure the cluelessness and dawnings of understanding – at least you’re more hip at the Internet than your parents could ever be.