Don’t stress about life after college
Dear College Senior Who is Stressing About Life After College,
It’s about 10pm on May 1st, 2014 as I start to write this to you. I’m sitting at the kitchen table in my parent’s house.Many of you might be like me 11 months after you graduate. That’s okay. Take the next step when you’re ready. The suffering of being at home after you’ve long stole your independence ( for me) was a bit stifling at first.
Okay, I’m lying. I’m still stifled.
It’s hard. You spend four years away from home LIVING LIFE ON YOUR OWN TERMS. Doing whatever the hell it is that you want, and then you come home. It doesn’t really hit you until September comes and you realize you’re not going to be moving back into the dorms this year.
Yea, wait until September and you’ll see what I mean.
But maybe your current situation in September will be what’s best for you at the moment. If you are living at home, that doesn’t mean you can never leave. You probably should. Though people will tell you that it’s best to move home and “save lots of money,” I think moving out could be a good thing for you.
BUT, I digress.
Let me get to the point of this letter.
I am writing this letter to all you college seniors out there who are stressing about life after graduation to tell you that I’ve been in your shoes. I understand how you feel.
Actually, right now, you may be feeling very excited.
If you’re like any of my many Facebook friends, you’ve probably just finished your last class of your undergraduate career. This made you feel happy and proud. Happy that you’re done. Proud that you’ve made it. You should be happy and proud. I’m happy and proud for you too.
Graduating from college is a great accomplishment.
And by that, I mean whatever “college” means for you.
For some people, college may mean a community college, 4- year college, technical insitutute, online program, or even a certification class.
Whatever degree you’ll be getting in a few days (or have already received if you’ve already graduated), don’t let anyone try to diminish the importance of that accomplishment you worked hard for. Likewise, don’t rain on anyone’s else’s parade.
Some people will try. Believe me. It might be strangers. It might be friends. It might even be family. Just keep strong in the fact that YOU worked hard and YOU are DESERVING . (This will be a great trait and skill you should probably start working on for the rest of your life.)
Believe me. (Haters become more abundant as you accomplish more in life.)
I know a secret about you.
There’s this voice inside of your head.
You’re scared, but of course you’re masking it with extreme enthusiasm – or maybe by blasting Drake’s Started from the Bottom. (That was meant to be funny. Forgive me if it isn’t.)
You’re stressing. Thoughts like these might be running through your head:
What’s next for me? Will I live up to what everyone has in store for me? Will I be happy? Will I find my soulmate? Will I be making money? What happens if I totally screw up? I don’t think I’m ready for this. I could use another year in college.
“I could use another year in college”.
Yes, this will run through your head (more than likely).
Well, at least it did for me.
As the saying goes,
“You never know what you have until it’s gone.”
During my last few weeks at Princeton, I really started enjoying the place and the people around me. Maybe this was because I had less to do. No homework. No senior thesis. I had just been offered a job that I would start in September. I started to look around and I started to get a bit nostalgic.
Oh, these arches are actually quite pretty.
Oh, the dining hall food (and the menu that has stayed the same the entire last four years) is actually quite good.
Will my life ever be as simple as it was when I was I college?
Oh man, I have to start paying for laundry (if I move out and live on my own and I don’t have an in-house washing machine.)
My best friends won’t be in walking distance of me anymore… will we still be friends?
Here’s my advice to you:
Stop Stressing. Find beauty in the unknown.
Would my then college senior self been able to predict the things that I’ve experienced since college? Absolutely not. The only definite thing I knew was that I’d be working at the Vera Institute of Justice as a Program Analyst starting the day after Labor Day. Finding beauty in the unknown is actually a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around. I’m someone who likes plans. I like knowing what I’m supposed to be, when, where, why, and how…and so on.
Finding beauty in the unknown means embracing not having plans. Not having it all figured out. Most of you are in your early 20s. I doubt there’s anyone who is older than us who can say they had everything all figured out at our age.
For example, I was convinced that I would spend the summer after graduation “traveling.” I didn’t get to travel while I was at Princeton and really wanted to see somewhere new. I had plans of seeing the world! Going somewhere foreign! But then something happened that I didn’t expect.
On my birthday (May 20th), I received a LinkedIn message from a Princeton ’09 alum that I met at a Career Services event earlier in the year inviting me to apply to a digital marketing internship at the agency she was working at. They were looking for someone who could start ASAP.
Whoa, DERAILMENT, I thought.
I was going to travel. I had my whole life to work. I really beat myself up for a few days figuring out my next steps. I asked EVERYONE what I should do.
I wanted to do it, but then I didn’t.
I wanted to enjoy the last “free” time I’d EVER have in my life (or so I thought.)
Well, I ended up taking the job and working at the agency for a good portion of the summer and guess what? I’M HAPPY AS HELL that I did.
Things unravel naturally.
I believe in this now. Things fall apart and unravel naturally.
I learned so much during those weeks…. and to think I originally had it all planned out. I made connections with cool people and learned things about digital marketing such as planning Facebook ads, pixels on websites, and how companies set up retargeting ads. (You know how Google just KNOWS that you’ve been looking at weave sites but never actually bought a weave so they put up an ad advertising that same weave that you were looking at that you never bought?) Yea. That.
Make a choice and go with the flow.If things go wrong, pivot. If they continue to go wrong, step back some more and do some serious analyzing, and then pivot more strategically next time.
I could go on and on about more things, but there are some other things I want to tell you before you stop reading.
Learn how to save money. Some of the things you will probably stress about is money. Read up on how to make a budget and all that practical stuff. But better yet, learn how to save money. Learn how to deny yourself a bit each month so that you can stack. Now, not everyone likes stacking and saving, but even if it’s a little bit each month, put a little away. This will be a good practice to build on as you continue through your adult life.
People will come and go. I’m somebody that is all about commitment and relationship building. Not everyone is like this. There will be some people in your life who have no plans on staying. Frankly, they don’t have to. There are some people in your life who, YES, will use you to their benefit. Hopefully, those people come and go. Never go into a relationship with the expectation that someone is indebted to you. Or, never think the relationship will always stay the way it is.
You change some more.
As you get older, you will develop. You probably won’t talk to ALL your friends from college the same way that you guys communicated while in college. That’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
This was something I had to really work on. I take it personally when people stop talking to me. Or if people call me out on something. I’m working hard on developing some inner guts. BALLS. Standing up for myself.
As people leave your life, new ones will enter. Sometimes these new people end up being more valuable than the old people. Remember that.
With that being said, TREAT THE PEOPLE RIGHT WHO ARE YOU TREATING YOU RIGHT. That’s very simple. Be kind to your friend who is always checking up on you. Don’t take for granted the boyfriend/girlfriend who is always there to hear your nagging stories about how much you hate your job. Don’t forget about mom, dad, grandma (or whoever else in your family you are very close to.) Say thank you a lot. Show appreciation. Be a giver, not a taker.
Doing too much will lead to mental overload. There was a point a few months ago where my schedule was crazy. I was working full-time, dabbling in freelance PR work, writing for several outlets, trying to make time for friends… basically I was saying YES to everyone. So while everyone was happy…. what was I? Miserable.
Do maybe this is another lesson… in life after graduation, focus on your happiness. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be generous or interested in the well being of others, but as the flight attendants say on the airplanes, “please put your own mask on before trying to help others put on their mask.” Don’t kill yourself trying to help other people when you aren’t even trying to help yourself.
However, I think the biggest thing I’d want to say is this.
DON’T BE LAZY. NOTHING WILL BE HANDED ON A PLATE FOR YOU. Unless you are really spoiled and people in your life love to do things for you (and hopefully you are not and they don’t), you will really need to work hard these next few years. Now working hard may mean a lot of things. For me, I realized that there was SO MUCH I didn’t know about what I wanted to know. That was marketing, copywriting. I spend ALOT of my time now reading up on those things. Networking. Connecting with people that can help me. Testing out new ideas on this blog. (I’m actually testing out a lot of stuff right now, but shhh…)
Don’t complain if you’re seeing no results if you aren’t taking actionable steps toward anything. Sitting around and complaining without doing anything is just silly. Nobody will feel sorry for you.
Bad shit will happen. You can’t escape that so stop trying to run from bad shit. You will have some bad bumps in the road. Stressing out about what they could potentially be will leave you borderline insane so just wait for them to happen. Now, on the same vein, try to eliminate the amount of STUPID SHIT you do that will lead to bad shit.
That’s pretty self- explanatory. I won’t expound on that.
To add: The bad stuff that happened to you will not define you. I had some bad moments in college. Some things happened to me that I thought would never happen and I had to deal with it. If you need help dealing with things, don’t be afraid to seek out that help.
Looking back, I realize that sometimes we get caught up on all the bad stuff that we go through and think that we need to carry it around as luggage in our minds and lives. We don’t. We can acknowledge and give it a place in our lives, which may just end up being the past.
I think about one of my best friends who lost a parent while in college and I smile because of where she is now in her life. Her college years weren’t exactly “normal”, but she’s someone that encourages me every day. Though she was experiencing tough times, she persevered.
That’s what these next few years will be about: perseverance.
You can do it.
Don’t forget about YOUR DREAMS. I’m almost finished. Don’t forget about what makes you excited. The things you told yourself you always wanted to do or try. For some, this might mean thinking back to your childhood and thinking about those things that really made your head spin. Don’t think about what you mother wants for you. What your professors see you doing. Really take some me-time and start cultivating those ideas about what your ideal life after graduation would look like. Don’t forget about what you envision.
Your dreams probably won’t come true in the near future, but I can assure you this: If you start setting some goals for yourself… if you start believing that every step you take will take you one step closer to those dreams of yours, you’ll start to see life in a different way. You’ll even start to experience bad things differently.
Stressing takes away from all the non-stressing you could be doing. Building up all that cortisol will harden your arteries. Seriously. Find things that you love to do and do them. Often. I’m chuckling here, because something just popped into my mind, but I’ll refrain from sharing my dirty thoughts with you guys.
No, but seriously. I look back at my college years and realized that I spent a lot of time worrying. It’s going to be really hard to convince yourself that you don’t need to worry. In some ways, worrying might actually prompt you to do some things that you need to do.
Also, STOP TRYING TO BE PERFECT. Trying to be perfect takes a lot of time and is something that is nearly impossible to achieve. My suggestion is to think more in terms of efficiency.
I guess the point of this letter at this point is to just say that everything will be okay. Nothing is really the end of the world (unless the world decides to end the day after you graduate.)
And so there I end my letter to you all. I hope that you laughed, smiled, reminisced or whatever other feeling you have been compelled to feel.
Start taking action, please.
I know you probably won’t listen to me with all these things I just told you. (If I were you, I probably wouldn’t either.) So do this instead:
Take one of the things I said and see how it applies to you. See how you can start channeling a different type of energy into the stress you are feeling.
Something else, I want you to do RIGHT NOW is leave a comment. It can be anything. Just go ahead and write something down there. See what you’re inspired to say. You might surprise yourself.
Since you took the time out of your day to read this, I want to say THANK YOU. If you really liked this article (or, atleast found it… a little useful to quelling some of the anxieties you might be having), share it right now. Think of someone who might benefit from reading.
All you have to do is copy and paste the following URL onto one of your social media channels. Write a nice little caption and share. I’d really appreciate that too.
I’ve also written this letter because I’m actually a bit sneaky. I want you to keep coming back to my site and reading more things about how you can navigate your life after graduation. Practical things. In the next few weeks, I’m planning on re-launching my site and turning into a powerhouse of inspiration for the young professional. I’m working on some special things and because you’re special I want you to be one of the FIRST people to know about it when it launches. Click here (or the picture below) to sign up for my email newsletter. Do it now. Do it today. Studies show that if you don’t take action now, you may never do so again.
Thanks once again for being such a great reader. You made it all the way here. You’re smiling, hopefully. If you have any questions about life after graduation that you think I might be able to answer, you can either COMMENT or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll respond.
I am looking forward to writing something that reaches your eyes very very soon.