The Reality of Post-College Graduate Life

We all see graduation as an exciting time in our lives. We get dressed in a cap, gown, and our nicest outfit for the big day. We walk across that stage. We receive our diplomas (AND DEGREES!!!). We walk off the stage feeling accomplished, proud, and ready to take on that next chapter in our lives. We celebrate our achievements with our friends and family who potentially are doing just that, too. Perhaps, we MAY even take graduation photos in the midst of ALL that excitement. BUT, the excitement and gratitude from all of those exciting college graduation moments seems to disappear in the blink of an eye. And, just like that, we are thrust out of the college world and into the big, scary adult world.

For more posts on post-college life, look no further than here:

If you know me and have been following along with me on Instagram (follow me @_thepinkchickadee!!) and the blog, then you know that I am a recent college graduate. I graduated from Meredith College a year ago (May 2021) as of when I am publishing this blog post with a Bachelors of Arts in Mathematics and triple minors in Data Science, Statistics, and Website Development and Honors. I also served on several college committees and won 5+ awards throughout my college experience. Everyone knew who I was on my college campus, as a result of my bright pink and preppy style, on-campus involvement, go-getter personality, and outgoing and bubbly persona. Just a day after my college graduation I moved from my college town of Raleigh, North Carolina to the big city of Washington, DC where I started my job at a company that I LOVE soon after. That all being said, my identity was defined by all of my experiences in college. Then, when I graduated from college, all of that went away. My identity, which was filled with being that girl involved in ALL of the committees, dressed to the 9’s in bright pink, and somehow making friends with everyone in between it all, left me along with my college years. Everything seemed to disappear and fall apart after college. And, truth be told, I still really miss those college years where everything felt as if it was in its place where it was meant to be.

Change is inevitable. Change is the one constant in ALL of our lives. Change is the one thing that we should all expect from life, whether we like it or not. With post-college graduate life, change is everywhere and at EVERY turn.

For many of us, post-graduate life changes involve a move, whether nearby or far away. Some of those moves can involve a brand-new city, back home, or even nearby our old college stomping grounds. Whatever the move may be, it IS a change to leave college apartments and/or your college campus for something else. We may be living with our parents, siblings, or grandparents and having to re-establish our relationships with those in our lives who we left just a few years beforehand and changed and grew so much in those years since initially leaving home. We may be living with roommate(s) and adapting to living independently and paying rent, utilities, and many other things on our own, too. Either way, packing up ALL of our belongings and college memories and life and moving elsewhere is tough. At the same time, friends from college and from back at home become dispersed, whether in different cities or different places within the same city/metropolitan area. Many of my friends live within 30 minutes from me that are in the Washington, DC area. I feel lucky by that statistic, too, given how vast the Washington, DC area is. The same goes for my friends Hannah and Alanna in the Raleigh-Cary-Durham, North Carolina area. Hannah, Alanna, and I were talking the other day about how many of us are lucky if we see our friends once a week in the postgraduate world, as opposed to all day everyday as in the college world. That is a BIG CHANGE!

Jobs take up A LOT of our time, whether we like it or not. I am very lucky to say that I had a job before graduating from college at a great company that I am lucky to say that I LOVE here in the Washington, DC area. I have several supportive coworkers and have been learning a lot on the job. I feel VERY fortunate to have all of this. I know several people who spend MONTHS if not YEARS searching for a job post-graduation. It is hard and, essentially, looking for a job IS A JOB. Either way, work WILL take up a lot of your time. It is not easy to find that work-life balance, especially the first few years out of college. We go from waking up at 12pm if we so choose to after staying up until 4am doing homework assignments to waking up much much much earlier to check emails, pings in Microsoft Teams and/or Slack, and meetings. We may even have an occasional or regular routine commute into work, too. Work IS exhausting. It is for everyone. It’s much different than college classes, but thankfully there is NO homework in the working world (*cues confetti!!!*). That is a BIG CHANGE!

We are out in the real world. We are in working jobs. We are paying rent and groceries and bills and potentially even student loans and everything in between it all, too. We are not asking our parents anymore for money, since we now have our own paychecks. We understand the value of money. We understand the expensive cost of things, such as groceries, gas, car payments, cell phone bills, rent, utilities, health insurance, auto insurance, 401K retirement accounts, savings accounts, and much much much more. It is all A LOT. We are gaining a newfound sense of independence. As, in previous times, our parents usually for the most part, handled those types of things. Adulting was beyond our own brain’s scope of comprehension. Those days are behind us and we are officially adults. That is a BIG CHANGE!

Our mental health takes a toll, through it all. To be honest, I have felt a loss of my own identity in the post-graduate world, a longing to see and interact with my peers on a daily basis, and a post-graduate world depression. My whole entire life, I have been going from classroom to classroom, assignment to assignment, report card to report card, and semester to semester. In between it all, I attended social to social, committee to committee, meeting to meeting, and event to event. And, then, I did it all again. My life has REVOLVED around being in a classroom setting all of my life. None of that classroom structure is there. It isn’t easy being in the post-graduate world when your identity was surrounded by your past school life. Personally, I miss a lot of what college had to offer and I know my college friends do too. It isn’t easy, but none of us are alone either. Remember that.

Although we excitedly put on our caps and gowns, walk across that stage, and receive our degrees, the road after doing so is never easy for anyone. We go through roller coaster rides of excitement, ranging from taking our first vacation when we would have probably been in class to decorating our first-ever apartment in the real world, and sadness, ranging from realizing we’re in fact not in college and living near all of our friends anymore and adulting and everything else. Things haven’t been easy for me, since my college graduation, to say the least (I want to be REAL with y’all!!!), but I do know that for all of us, everything is temporary and that things WILL get better. Do not forget – things WILL get better – though they may seem hard at this very exact moment.

XOXO – Katie <3

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