Life After College and How to Get Through it

For the past four years you’ve spent your time writing 10-page papers, reading hundreds of pages of textbooks, balancing school work and a social life and striving for a degree. Now, you’ve got the degree, all your work has paid off, but what next?

This won’t be a post about how to save money after college or budgeting tips for recent grads. It’s not a list of networking ideas or a how-to on making your first million dollars before age 25. Rather, it’s a way to deal with the fact that your life is changing and you have this whole world here for you to jump into.

You may have just finally graduated, scored an awesome job, are moving into a fabulous apartment and feel like you’re ready to take on the world. On the other hand, you may be forced to move back home with your parents, spend your days searching for jobs, scrolling through Facebook and wondering what in the world you’re going to do next. You may feel lost.

Lost after college

I was certainly one of the lost ones. I will admit, I wasn’t a good student in high school. I would have preferred spending my time hanging out with friends, watching hours of YouTube and simply dreaming of what I could accomplish rather than taking the action needed to do it. I knew the college I wanted to attend, but I didn’t have the grades to get in. I mean, where was a 2.3 GPA going to get me? So, I went to a local community college for 2 ½ years and learned how to be a student. I graduated with my associate’s degree and a 4.0 GPA. I worked my butt off to get there because I quickly learned that nobody was going to accomplish my goals for me, it was totally my responsibility.

I transferred to the four-year private school I had dreamed about since sophomore year of high school. I had a blast, learned a lot, but couldn’t wait to get out of school. I left there with a bachelor’s degree, a 3.9 GPA and a complete loss of self to accompany them. I was a student. That’s who I became and that’s what I grew to identify myself. All of my accomplishments, the reasons my parents and family were proud of me and the structure and confidence I gained were all wrapped up in being a student and getting good grades. Then, I graduated. I was no longer a student. So, who the heck was I?

Student

Life after college can certainly be an awkward period in young adulthood. You really don’t want to see your degree go to waste and you know there are certain steps you must take in order to “succeed” after college. I put succeed in quotations because success is like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Success for one person can simply be getting out of bed, but for another it’s being the first person to make it to Mars and back. That’s why you can’t make your decisions based on other people’s definitions and expectations. That’s rule #1 in any area of life.

If you’re trying to figure out what your next step is, the first thing you need to think about is what you want. What do you want to do right now?  If you close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine yourself doing anything in the world, what is it? Got it? That’s your next step. Now, you may see yourself running a multi-million dollar company, living a simple life on an island somewhere, flying planes, raising a family, taking care of others, on television, on the radio, on a stage or on the moon. Of course, you can’t just do those things because nothing is that easy, but you can work toward those things in whatever way YOU think is going to get you there.

Dreaming

Get a job if you have to. Move on from one job and get another one if you have to. Move to another state or country if you have to. Volunteer all your time to whatever cause you’re interested in. Learn all you can while you take each step. Take what you need from each experience and move on. Do whatever it is that is going to make you happy and help you achieve your goals.

There are going to be so many opinions and pieces of advice that are going to be thrown your way. “Why are you doing that? You didn’t even go to school for that.” “You have that much in student loans?! That’s why I didn’t go to college.” “You should this…” “You shouldn’t that…” But, remember, this is your life and nobody else is living it for you. You are the only one who has to live with the choices you make. Everyone is busy trying to figure out their own choices and where THEY went wrong.

Dreamcatcher

And don’t even get me started if you change your mind. People love when others change their minds because it’s a perfect opportunity for them to say “I told you so”, as if it makes them right and they are entitled to let you know. Ignore it. Change your mind all you want. You’re young, you’re not supposed to know exactly what to do, where to go and how to do things. When you can change your mind and act on that change with willingness, enthusiasm and motivation, you’re growing and learning, and that’s the most important part of everything.

For me, I have student loan debt so high I want to vomit every time I think about it. One would think that would inhibit me from really doing anything in life. But, I know what I want. And I may have a lot of loans to pay off, but I work around that to make sure I achieve the goals I’ve set for myself. And if one way doesn’t work, I’ll find another.

What you really need to know is that no matter what path you choose to go down in your new adult life, whether it’s going back to school, joining the 9-5 workforce, joining the peace corps, the military or the circus, do whatever it is that is going to make you happy. Eventually, when you close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine yourself doing anything in the world, what you imagine will be sitting right in front of you.

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