10 Things I Learned One Year After Graduation
A little over a year ago, I walked across a stage and claimed a piece of paper with instructions on how to pick up my diploma a few months later. And that was it. Four years of pumping caffeine into my bloodstream, occasionally staying up until the butt-crack of dawn*, and exhausting a small forest’s worth of paper left me with a bag of mixed emotions and a document telling the world that I might qualify for some entry-level jobs.
With the first day of school just around the corner, however, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of nostalgia. While I’m reveling in the fact that I no longer have to stress over grades or buy overpriced textbooks that I never read, there are parts of college life that I really miss – campus events, dinners with friends almost every night, student discounts, to name a few. Would I repeat my undergrad years if I had the chance?
College was a happy little bubble with lots of room for errors and opportunities where you least expect them. Routines consisted of more than just work, eat, and sleep, and you'd somehow still have enough energy to explore the city, go to the gym, and volunteer.
College was fun and all, but it's not the "real world". After a year of attempting to navigate through early adulthood, I’ve picked up two handfuls of life lessons that I’ll carry with me as I gradually level up and become a full-fledged adult.
1 | No one under the age of 25 really has his or her life figured out.
And if they say otherwise, they’re either lying or insanely lucky. Not everyone’s destined to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. And even then, there’s always still room for change and growth.
We’re at a stage in our lives where we don’t exactly know where we’ll be in one year’s time. People switch jobs – even career paths – as easily as they switch majors. Many have yet to discover what they’re passionate about or fully explore where their passions can take them.
2 | With that being said, comparing your life to those of others is toxic.
A little competition is healthy – it keeps our progress in check and motivates us to step up our game. At some point, however, it becomes physically and emotionally draining, which is an obstacle in and of itself.
With social media, it’s especially easy to assume that everyone else is living the dream. What we need to remember is that behind that perfect Instagram photo or celebratory Facebook status are blood, sweat and tears shed to get to that point (usually). We compare our struggles to the successes of others and forget that no two people go through the same life experiences and hurdles. It leaves us feeling left behind when, in reality, we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be for now.
3 | You might go through another identity crisis.
People tend to change a lot in college, but it’s got nothing on the changes we go through at the beginning of adulthood. We’re faced with more challenges that shape us and our perspectives as we’re pushed to our limits. And we begin to question what we’re doing with our lives or if we became who our younger selves thought we would grow up to be.
4 | Sleep is the best thing ever.
Why did I ever think that pulling all-nighters was a bright idea? College culture glorified sleep deprivation; if you got a full night’s rest, you aren't working hard enough. No – go get your seven to eight hours of sleep.
Lack of sleep hinders performance and wreaks havoc on the body. Not only do you feel like a zombie the next day, but you’re also essentially putting yourself at higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health complications. If you want to tackle a full day of work, errands, and other responsibilities without completely wearing yourself out, you need the right amount of zzz’s.
5 | You’ll really appreciate the time you spend with friends and family.
The friends we used to see on a daily basis no longer live down the hall. And scheduling a lunch together now requires at least a week’s notice. With work and other commitments, losing touch with some college friends is inevitable. It doesn’t make anyone a bad friend; we’re all just busy. Setting aside time for the people who are still in our lives requires more effort, but that’ll only make those friendships more meaningful.
After college, we also start seeing our parents in a different light. Sometimes, we’re too busy growing up that we forget that they’re growing old. I can’t speak for those who don’t have the greatest relationship with their parental figures, but if you do, it's nice to give them a call or a visit once in a while. They've gone through their 20s already so we can probably learn a thing or two from them.
6 | There are things that you’ll regret not doing while you were still in school.
Whether it’s pursuing a different major or attending more on-campus networking events, there are things we wish we did in college where resources were abundant and risk-taking wasn't as risky. There will be a point where you look back at all your doubts and missed opportunities and wonder how different life would be had you taken more chances and gone out of your comfort zone a bit more.
7 | But it’s never too late to venture into new and exciting things.
The learning doesn’t stop when we get our diplomas. Thanks to the digital age, hundreds of thousands of resources are literally just a few taps and clicks away. Take online classes that really interest you or pick up that hobby you were too busy for back when you were a full-time student.
Learning new skills not only gives you something to add to your résumé, but it also opens up opportunities that you didn’t think were available to you before. This certainly requires discipline and dedication, but if it’s something you’re passionate about, you’ll make the time for it.
8 | Speaking of time, it flies ridiculously fast.
With work and general “adulting”, we tend to lose track of time. For every Friday that we count down to, another week slips by. Before we know it, a year has passed, and we’re left wondering where the time went and whether or not we’ve accomplished enough in the last 365 days.
9 | Take your time, but don’t waste your time.
As much as we’d like to be mega-productive superstars who check off goals like people check off items on a groceries list, it’s going to take some of us more time and effort to get there. And occasionally, we’re going to have our off-days. What’s important is that we don’t beat ourselves up for it and, instead, focus on picking up and sorting the pieces as soon as we can.
10 | And your current position, good or bad, isn’t Permanent.
If you’re not exactly where you want to be, that’s perfectly fine. After all, it’s only been one year. And if the first half of 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that a lot of things can happen in a short period of time. Check in after another 365 days and see how far you’ve come.
*0/10. Would not recommend.