This one goes out to the Class of 2014. Whether you’re graduating this weekend, next weekend, or in June (yeah, I went to UCSB, I know all too well the pains of the quarter system and its late graduation dates), whether you attended a private school with 2,000 people or a public school with 20,000, whether you majored in dance or biochemistry, this article is for you.
I’m not exactly a perpetual optimist. A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about some of the harsh realities of post-grad life. But don’t worry too much, life after college goes on – and your post-grad years can be just as good as your college years. Admittedly, graduating from college is a bittersweet time; on one hand, you have the sad realization that your days of carefree life are mostly over, but on the other hand, you have the whole world – the real world – ahead of you. Instead of lamenting the fact that you’re finally a real adult, take action. You can make the years after graduating from college some of the best of your life.
Here’s how to handle your college graduation and what comes after in a way that will make you happy, healthy, and ready for whatever life brings.
*Note: none of these suggestions will get you employed or help you pay rent…you’re on your own there, kids.
Make an effort to stay in touch
You might be leaving college behind, but don’t leave your friendships behind. As you and your friends move to different places, move in with new boyfriends and girlfriends, and move towards new job opportunities, it will take effort to stay close. Your friendships won’t be as easy to maintain as they are when you’re going out to the bars together every Friday night, or meet up for a coffee at the campus Starbucks every Tuesday and Thursday after stats class.
You’ll soon realize that staying close throughout the rollercoaster ride that is life requires a conscious effort on the part of both parties. If you truly care about the friends you have now, let them know. Make plans to keep in touch next year – real, concrete plans. Whether you’re living in the same city or on different continents next year, life will pull you apart if you let it. Make the effort. Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever. Text each other frequently. Send stupid pictures of cat memes to each other. Set up a Skype date once a month.
Far too many people in my parents’ generation speak of their college friends as though they’re dead; their freshman year partners-in-crime just distant memories from a time when life was simpler. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your friends now can be your friends at 65. Just make the effort.
Thank your parents
Whether you owe your parents thanks for paying for your expensive, out-of-state education, or whether you owe your parents thanks for supporting you and shaping you into the successful college graduate you are, the fact remains the same – your parents deserve your gratitude.
If your parents paid for your schooling, tell them how much it means to you. Think of all the time and all the money that your parents have spent giving you an opportunity to really succeed in the world. They didn’t pay for your schooling for their own benefit; they wanted YOU to become the best person you could be. They took the risk of spending their hard-earned dough on your potential, and they questioned their decision when they got the call from the hospital, or the jail, telling them that you drank too much and did something stupid. But come graduation day, you parents will be thrilled that their investment in you was worth it.
If your parents didn’t pay for your schooling, thank them just as much. Thank them for always supporting you and for raising you the right way; for raising you to value education and for teaching you that a college education was worth your while. If you’re the first in your family to graduate from college, tell your parents that you’re just as proud of them as they are of you – they instilled in you the values that have made you who you are today. If you’re not the first in your family to graduate from college, thank your parents for being there for you. They stayed up til 2:00am far too many nights, waiting for that text from their little girl, that text you sent when you got back to your dorm after that first frat party. They spent countless days bragging to their friends, their parents, their neighbors, and anyone else who would listen about your potential, and about the wonderful young man you’ve been becoming. Come graduation day, their bragging will be justified, their jobs as parents validated.
This isn’t just a big day for you. It’s a big day for your parents. Thank them, and let them know that without their guidance, your success would have never been possible.
And after you graduate, continue to make your parents proud. You might feel like you’re getting old, but they are actually getting old. Family always comes first. Make sure your parents know how much you love and appreciate them every. single. day. They won’t be around forever.
Don’t grow up too fast
You’re done with college, and soon, you’re going to have plenty of adult responsibilities – a real job, bills to pay, and the not-so-glamorous task of truly finding your place in this world. But that doesn’t mean all the fun in your life has to end. Hell, you’re only 22. The world is your oyster. You have SO many more tomorrows to come than yesterdays behind you. Carpe the fuckin’ Diem, man.
You might have a professional job (if you’re lucky), but you don’t have to be professional all the time. You might have bills to pay, but that doesn’t mean you can’t blow $1000 on a Vegas weekend. You might have no idea what you want to do with your career, but you know a night at the strip club with your buddies will take all the heavy shit off your mind for a few hours.
Have fun. Be stupid. Be young. Go to happy hours and drink margaritas until your head is swimming. Go to concerts and dance around ten times harder than all the high school girls. Go to movies and make out in the back of the theater. Stay up til sunrise. Skip work every so often for a personal day at the ballpark. Have a one-night stand or ten. You’re still young – act like it.
…But act like an adult
Don’t take your #YoungWildNFree attitude too far, though. Act like an adult. Be the young man or woman your parents think you are – at least sometimes. Take your responsibilities seriously, and start moving in the direction of a real grown-up.
No more drinking until you puke, that’s not a socially acceptable move once you’re out of school. Get drunk, but do it with a little more class.
Take work seriously. In college the consequence of missing class too many times was getting a ‘D’ on your participation grade or missing a pop quiz. The consequence of missing work too much is getting fired…and then getting evicted when you don’t have the cash to pay your rent.
Be self-sufficient, as much as you can. Your parents might still help you out, but begging for money all the time isn’t a good feeling. Your parents have done so much for you already…it’s time to show them that you’re able to help yourself out.
And about those one-night stands: have them as much as you want, but please, use a condom. Whether it’s herpes or pregnancy, neither one is something you want to deal with in your twenties.
Do what you love, with the people you love
And this might be the most important thing of all. Do what you you love. Whether that means pursuing a career you love, making time for the hobbies you love, or just loving every day you wake up, DO IT. Keep the people you love in your life: your family, your significant others, your friends. Love them. Make time for them. Make them feel loved.
You’re going to struggle at times. You’re going to second-guess yourself. You’re going to have days where it feels like the world is against you. This is normal. Your post-grad days are a big time of transition. Circumstances change. People change. Your physical location changes, and so does your mindset. Stay strong. Move forward. Find the things you love, and throw yourself into them. Lean forward.
You’re only 22 years old. You have SO much ahead of you.
It’s okay if you’re still unsure of what you want to do for a living; don’t settle for the first job offer you get because it’s convenient – find a job you love, a job you look forward to.
It’s okay if you don’t feel ready for the real world. Fuck it. Take a year off. Travel. Hitchhike across the country. Camp on the beach. Start a punk rock band. Do whatever makes you happy. Do what you love.
It’s okay if you want to be selfish. Don’t settle down with a boyfriend or girlfriend who you begrudgingly accept a future with. Break up. Be single. Don’t settle, don’t stop, until you find a person you really love.
It’s okay if you’re not ready to leave college behind. Go back and get a minor. Go to grad school. Hell, go study Spanish in Barcelona for a year, if that’s what makes you happy, if that’s what you love.
It’s okay if you fuck up, it happens to everyone. Learn something from it. Keep your step in time and always move forward. Don’t be too hard on yourself; above all else, just love yourself. At the end of they day, YOU are the only you that you have.
It’s okay if you don’t feel like a real adult yet. You’ll get there. Make sure you fill your life with love, and love every day you’re alive. The rest will sort itself out, I promise.
Congratulations, Class of 2014.
I know right now this might all feel like the end, like the door of your youth and fun slamming shut. But rest assured, the best is yet to come. You’re 22, you’re educated, and the world is yours for the taking.
Now go take it.
*And if you’re still feeling a little sad about leaving college behind, hopefully this helps you as you cry into your last keg of Keystone Light:
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