The Biggest Lesson I Learned One Year Out of College

It’s be over a year since I graduated college. Honestly, it feels like maybe three months.

At this point last year, heading into my first summer as a college grad, I was overwhelmed by an extreme variety of different emotions. I was relieved to be done with school and felt a weightlessness wash over me as I realized I didn’t have any attachments. I was thrilled to be heading back to camp to see some of my best friends and have a break from the real-world and time to decompress graduation. Of course I was anxious about getting a job after camp and nervous about having to potentially move back home.

Now I’m finding myself in an odd place of repetitions. I’ve just finished my last week at my three jobs and I’m at camp, my second home. I’m thrilled to be here at camp, but I also have the same opportunity to job search after camp this year that I did last year.

Of course, during the fall of 2015 I spent a month over in the United Kingdom, and I probably won’t be doing that again this year (but ya never know!). It took me a few months to buckle down and really start job searching full time because I was still soaking in the post-grad glow that spanned from May until probably November or December (way too long if you ask me).

Although I’m in a relatively familiar place, I feel very different. If there’s one thing I learned this past year, it’s the art of letting go and riding it out.

One Year After College

I had a lot of expectations heading into post-grad life. I imagined myself in an apartment back in North Carolina, maybe by myself, maybe with a friend. I had my cats with me, I had a full-time that was at least okay, and places to go and things to do on the weekend. Right now, the only thing that stayed the same was that I still have my cats with me. Instead of an apartment, I’ve returned to my childhood bedroom, taken three semi-part time jobs, and have little places on the weekend save for a couple yoga classes.

In the beginning, I was so frustrated about moving back home. Now I’m loving it.

It took me time to change my perspective on my living situation, but once I got the projected image out of my head of what I thought life was supposed to look like, I realized that I had it pretty good.

Let’s list some of the best things about living at home that I failed to realize when I was still sulking back in December.

  • I don’t have to pay rent (ummm hello!)
  • I don’t have to cook my own food (although I do make my own breakfast and lunch and a few dinners a week)
  • I don’t have to get all new furniture to furnish an apartment
  • My parents are literally down the hall if I have a question about my car, taxes, job rights, finances, loans, etc
  • My mom makes cookies on a weekly basis
  • I didn’t have to go through the hassle of moving, packing, and unpacking (a true blessing in disguise)
  • Free laundry (I do my own but at least I don’t have to pay for it)
  • Free Netflix (the real reason I’ve stayed at home)

Being at home enabled me to save a ton of money. Money which has been put towards paying off my student loans.

I was also frustrated feeling like I settled for a few part time jobs instead of working towards getting a full-time job. However, managing three separate jobs was perfect for the last six months. (It was chaotic and overwhelming and stressful at times, but I’m working on changing my perspective to a more positive one.) Working at an elementary school and a non-profit gave me an eclectic realm of real-life work experience that went deeper than an internship, but also allowed me to not make a full-time commitment to an organization I wasn’t sure I wanted to stick with.

So many college graduates feel an immense pressure to get a full-time job immediately after college that we forget there are other options beside the traditional route. Don’t measure your success by your job offers. Measure it by the steps you’re taking to lay down a foundation for future job offers. Deepen a hobby, try something new, travel, take multiple jobs, freelance. Take an opportunity to do something unexpected.

When I took the job as a substitute teacher, at first I felt disappointed and discouraged. Here I was taking a job that I swore to my mother during many arguments I wouldn’t even apply for (she kindly held back her “I told you so”). I felt as if I wasn’t good enough to fill in the imaginary life I already painted for myself. After a month or so, I already learned so much and I’m grateful for a year buffer period before I decide whether I want to continue with what I’m doing now, juggling three jobs, or look for something more full-time and permanent.

My number one tip for letting go gracefully? Step away from the screen. Take your eyes off social media for a hot second, and realize that what your friends and peers are posting just scratches the surface. Their job make look cooler than yours, their apartment may look like it was copied from a magazine, and they have crazy plans every week. But take time to do what’s best for you and to prepare yourself for your own moment where your job, home, and social life looks as put together as theirs.

I’m not saying give up on your dreams or stop making goals for yourself in your post-grad life, but take a moment to reevaluate where you are right now with a new lens. Do what feels right for you right now, not what you feel like you should be doing.

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