10 Things You'll Learn After Graduation
Around this time two years ago, I graduated from college. Sweating through my black cap and gown in the Southern heat and humidity, I yelled "we did it!" (Elle Woods' style) as I was handed my diploma from Vanderbilt's chancellor. I was proud and happy. After struggling hard with my grades my freshman year of college - and changing my major about five times, I was proud and happy that I had raised my GPA significantly, I had settled on a major and minor I loved and that I had gained so much knowledge (nerd alert). I was proud of all my friends who stood by me who had done the same too.
But, I'll be honest. I was simultaneously really sad. I was unemployed, broke and moving back to California when a large part of me wanted to stay in the South, close to the majority of my friends. I had bad bouts of crying leading up to graduation, I went back and forth pondering if my degree meant anything because I didn't have a job (or school) lined up and the remainder of my friends did and I was moving back home where the only people I knew were my parents.
I was happy, sad, confused, excited - all at the same time. And...pretty tipsy from Vandy's strawberries and champagne celebration following the ceremony.
Though I feel considerably more distanced from Vandy two years later and have learned more than I could have ever expected, I still have the same emotions - happiness, sadness, excitement, anxiety, confusion. Some things never change.
Well, in the spirit of graduation (and to all my Vandy/AXO friends - and my sister - graduating this weekend and later this month into June), here are my little lessons that I've learned since this day two years ago.
1. Real life is expensive.
A large part of me was pampered by Vandy compared to many other colleges. Vandy gave me a huge scholarship and grant, you had to live on campus so rent wasn't a thing and most people were on meal plans. Did I mention we had a maid who replenished toilet paper and cleaned our bathroom? When I graduated, I was hit with reality that is rent (and in one of the top five most expensive cities in the US), car payments and car insurance (my old car was wrecked) and food, medical, travel, living and emergency expenses. Plus, no more free drinks for the college girl. To top it off, I'm paid at an entry level salary. My bank account is still taking a huge hit adjusting to this.
2. You'll enjoy reading again.
Prior to heading off to Nashville, I was a bookworm, averaging two books a week. But, after pursuing a reading-heavy major, I resented picking up any book for leisure reading. It was too reminiscent of the 300+ pages of academic reading I had assigned. After graduating, this association dissipated, and I was finally able to read for pleasure again! Thank goodness for my library card - I am burning through books too fast now!
3. You won't stay in as solid contact with your college friends as you think you will.
I hate that I've learned this lesson because it's by far been the hardest to cope with. You'll stay in close contact the first few months - updating your group chat on your every waking move, but as time goes on your friends (and yourself included) will make other friends. Between that and the busy-ness of everyone else's lives and time zones, it's just hard to keep up with each other. When you're not living together or seeing one another day after day, it's harder to stay in touch. While I still count some of my college friends as my best friends, there's plenty of people I no longer have contact with that I thought I would. I guess there are times and places for friendships, but it makes me sad how distance has impacted this so much.
4. You'll miss college - no matter how burnt out you were by the time of graduation.
When I graduated, I was burnt out. I was tired of studying and tired of writing papers. I felt mentally drained. At the time, I was also a little burnt out on college drama (which, at times, was similar to high school). I thought I was ready to graduate and close the chapter. Lo and behold, a few months later I found myself missing learning new things in class everyday and missing tightly knit social circles. This feeling has lessened and lessened, but for at least a year, I wished with all my heart that I was still a student in undergrad.
5. You'll actually see your major come into use - but in unexpected ways.
Vandy's Communication Studies was unlike so many other programs. It was rooted in theory - essentially, I learned rhetoric, the way people constructed arguments and what was effective and what was not. We applied these theories to mass media and politics. Not very applicable to anything I wanted to do in public relations or marketing. While I was angsty about this for a period of time because I felt limited in my options and knowledge, I found skills from these classes coming out in effective interpersonal in-office communication and my ability to write very well in diverse settings. Meanwhile, my Art History minor lent itself to an eye for graphic design and PowerPoint decks, as well as a knack for thinking creatively and analytically on the fly.
6. You'll realize how horrible you looked.
I'm embarrassed when Facebook's "On This Day" reminds me of the outfits I used to wear to parties...and my horribly short bangs. Why did I think these things were okay?!
7. Weekends are amazing in real life.
While weekends meant time to party in college, it also meant time to study. I had too many Sundays ruined after brunch studying away. In real life, however, you can use your weekends to fully adventure and explore, without the worry of that big exam on Monday that you need to cram for. I like to fill my weekends to the brim now to make the most of my time off.
8. Real life is pretty lonely.
I spend a lot of time alone now. I no longer come home to roommates after class or have study partners I can meet with in minutes on campus. Instead, I often come home from work and veg out alone. Weekends are often spent alone too, unlike college when I spent mornings talking in bed to my roommate across the room and evenings getting ready for parties with big groups. I've never felt so lonely and so independent all at one time, honestly.
9. You'll have the best of times and the worst of times.
I have had my highest highs and lowest lows in the last two years. College was stressful, but damn so is real life. But the freedom and joy of experiencing new things and meeting new people has led to some of my favorite memories.
10. Things get better.
They always do. Life goes on. You miss things a little less, you make new friends and new memories and you learn to love the new chapter.
Happy Graduation! You did it!