Updated: Jul 2, 2020
I graduated exactly a year ago, and these are the 5 things I learned
Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash
The post-graduation period was one of the most confusing yet healing times of my life. In retrospective, four years in college seems like such a long time ago, but those years fled from my life at the speed of light.
After graduation, I found myself being deeply attached to my memories. I seemed to compare everything from my new lifestyle to my pre-graduation lifestyle. Similar to comparing your ex to your new boyfriends or girlfriends, it never leads to satisfaction and fulfillment in the present circumstances.
In an attempt to experience past emotions, I searched to indulge myself in college-like events even after graduating. Finding events with the same circle of people wasn’t difficult because most of my classmates had chosen to stay friends. Since I lived in the same town as my college was in, I visited them quite often.
Reality met expectations at every single one of those events I was attending. Being a curiously analytical person, I was committed to experimenting on this feeling: Were we all there to revive our college experiences? Was everyone’s post-graduation life as demanding as mine? Are we all struggling with post-graduation blues and letting go?
To a certain extent, I noticed that we were all in similar positions — some more than others. Our newly handed diploma was a metaphor for dumped responsibilities and higher societal expectations. Reality hit some of us faster than we were prepared for it.
I graduated from college exactly a year ago today. By recounting my experiences from college and the past year as an independent adult, I am hoping to provide a glimpse of some post-graduation realities to the Class of 2020.
Making Friends After College:
My degree is in Health Management and Biology on the premedical track, but I was able to pivot very last minute to find a position as a Business Analyst within the corporate healthcare industry.
Two days after graduation, I bid farewell to some of my best experiences, packed my belongings in 2 suitcases, and left for a position in Austin, TX. I was high off graduating and was beyond prepared for this new start. To my surprise, the feeling of euphoria disappeared within the next couple weeks when I started to get miserably homesick. I so badly wanted to experience the new city, but didn’t know many people to go on adventures with.
I managed to experience every single part of Austin, but within two months of me being there, I was ready to leave.
The Internet has tips on countless ways to make friends in a new city, such as joining new clubs/leagues, going out, talking to strangers, getting social apps, etc., but it forgets to mention that these activities are a bit difficult to navigate for introverts.
Regardless of the associated discomfort, I pushed myself to attend various social events. It did not take long for me to notice that most people attend these events with close friends or significant others. Most of these people have no intention of chatting up with strangers and I don’t blame them. They are simply there to spend quality time with their loved ones without interruption.
For most people, meeting people and making friends in college is something that is almost as easy as eating. It barely requires any effort since everyone is on the same wavelength about starting fresh, fitting in, and finding their squad. There are a plethora of opportunities present, such as joining clubs, classes, parties to enable students to easily form relationships.
In reality, however, it requires loads of effort and patience to form deeper bonds. This factor discouraged me from continuing my position in Texas, which led me to accept a similar position in Chicago with the same company — where I already knew quite a few people.
Meeting new people is easy, but keeping them in your life becomes an investment after college. With enough changes happening in your life already, it is a very demanding transition to chase genuine relationships.
For What Comes Next, Dating…
As if forming genuine friendships weren’t hard enough, locking in long-lasting romantic relationships felt even more impossible. Here I will outline my friends’ experiences more than my own because I haven’t placed nearly enough emphasis on finding the right partner.
One thing I can relate to is the sickness that follows after indulging in the modern dating culture of swiping right. I am traditional in the sense that I prefer face to face interactions over texting all day. Even though It’s likely there are a handful of good people on tinder and bumble, dating apps are also heavily saturated with people looking for hookups and a sense of validation.
I haven’t tried to actively pursue the dating scene since graduation, but I certainly feel the societal pressure of not having found someone from strangers, family, and friends.
As you move into your post-graduation world, finding people to date will only become harder and harder. Good understanding of your boundaries, values and principles with a lot of patience can be very helpful in attracting real relationships.
Rushing into Entry-Level Job
Unrewarding and unfulfilling careers are expected at any stages, but recent graduates are more prone to ending up in such situations. I was fortunate enough to land a job that is flexible to my needs and is committed to helping me navigate different interests.
However, most recent undergraduates struggle to land their “dream job” right after graduation with how much experience companies require to offer just entry-level positions. The need to have everything figured out within the first couple of months can be damaging to one’s mental health.
I see the early 20s as a period to explore varying interests with low stakes. For most of us, we don’t have the responsibility of looking after families yet, which allows us the freedom to take risks and welcome uncertainties to a certain degree. The last thing recent graduates should do is rush into and settle for a career that they will feel miserable in for the rest of their lives. It’s essential to take time to explore different options and figure out who we are and what we can offer to the world.
We have engraved a vision of what careers should look like based on what our parents had. You know — graduating, getting a job, growing within that job until you are ready to retire, barely getting to spend any time with family — the whole bundle. There are too many available opportunities out there to settle right away. First, focus on innovating, building, and creating.
Surround yourself in an environment that will enable you to grow, innovate, build, and create. Spend some time daily to envision how you want your future to look like, while noting your likes and dislikes within your job. This process will make it a bit easier to identify the right career opportunities as it comes to you.
And Everlasting Struggle with Finances
Let’s discuss this! I was fortunate to have the financial support of my parents in college, but I have always held multiple jobs. From working at Chipotle to holding jobs as a Medical Scribe and fitness Attendant — I have never been the one to back down from responsibility.
Being financially independent, however, forced me to understand the importance of budgeting and saving. All of a sudden, I was tightening up my monthly budget and was being more intentional with where my dollars were going — something that I had never cared to do before. No longer was I able to spend all my hard-earned money on going out clothes and overpriced coffee.
For the first couple of months, I moved back in to live with my parents while I saved five months' worth of income. By saving, I mean I didn’t even buy coffee elsewhere for those five months. I was being extremely frugal.
Through this experiment, I learned how easy overspending truly is. Suddenly, I understood the problem that daunts the majority of Americans — living paycheck to paycheck. The intentionality set during a couple of months I spent with my parents prepared me to make better financial decisions when I finally moved out.
All of a sudden, there was a bill for everything — rent, security deposit, car payment, car insurance, health insurance, payment, water, electricity, taxes, cell phone, credit cards, various subscriptions, fitness, groceries — should I keep going? And these aren’t even it. Even if you make a 6-figure income, you need to be able to take a hard look at your personal finances to secure a good future.
What was impactful for me was seeking guidance from mentors who had their finances figured out.
Being very transparent about your situation and spending habits from the beginning is a good step.
It is never too early to start saving and investing. I am so grateful that I took it upon myself to learn some tips and tricks before the COVID-19 market crash took us all by surprise.
Often Overlooked, But So Important…Mental Wellness
Unexpected challenges will continue to appear, and it will become very difficult at times to overlook certain problems and neither should you try. Sound mental health should be the top priority at this point in life.
Without proper support, adulting can be a lonely process. The comfort of being around multiple people whenever desired is stripped away after college.
Instead, now there is the stress of burning out at work, new city, unfamiliar faces, competing priorities. Placing emphasis on all these misfortunes will only exacerbate your problems. The flow of time is the only reliable source that will mend these problems, but they will never fully disappear. Learning how to properly deal with them will be the biggest favor you can do to yourself.
Take more vacation. Realize that your problems do not control you. Meditate. Focus on the end goal and trust in the process. Exercise. Life is not a race — it’s a marathon. Take it day by day; you will end up exactly where you are supposed to be and who you are supposed to be with.
The most humbling experience is looking back on my failures and observing how they have shaped me into a better person today. As Ryan Holiday put it very graciously:
“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” ― Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage