Everything They Don't Tell You About Life After College Graduation

Monday, May 29, 2017 New York, NY, USA

Everything They Don't Tell You About Life After College Graduation - Taylor Mead
(Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash)

I will be the first to admit that I was extremely worried about life post-college.

Mid-second semester senior year (March 2016), I went on a retreat with a group of classmates and it was one of the most revealing and healing things I could have done. At the retreat, we were instructed to write a letter to our future selves, which we would read a year later.

In the letter, I told myself about how badly I hoped to have a full-time job a year later in order to alleviate the anxieties I felt as a then soon-to-be graduate.

Between the personal and peer pressure of everything that was expected of a college grad, I didn't think there was another option for me. I thought getting a job immediately, moving into my first apartment, and living the perfect adult life was how it had to be.

The questions from friends and family were always the same: "What are your plans after graduation?" "Do you have a job?" "What will your salary be?"

And while everyone had the same outward appearance of being put together, I couldn't help but wonder if I was the only one feeling completely and utterly stressed. The pressure was a lot and it wasn't really something people talked about — it was an "I got this" attitude mixed with an unspoken internal dialogue that constantly asked, "Are you freaking out as much as I am?"

I mean, correct me if I'm wrong friends, but I think I came to find that almost everyone dreaded the uncertainty of graduation day for one reason or another.

So when I got the dream fellowship, relief seeped over me. It was one less thing for me to worry about and one more thing checked off the list of things I was "supposed" to do after college.

But here's my question: Who really makes that checklist anyway? You know, that list of things we're "supposed to do" or the one with the "right ways" to do it?

My answer: Who knows? So unless that checklist will truly and genuinely make you happy, I say give it a toss. Instead of following that list, follow your heart.

Take the time to decide what you want to do, without rushing. Here are the things I wish someone had told me before, during, or shortly after graduation, realizations that have since helped me immensely:

1. Take the time you need.

If there is one thing I would scream off the rooftop it's "take your time." Your dream does not have an expiration date. In fact, there is no rush to figure out what your dream may be — it could change a million and one times anyway. If you do not know what you want, it is absolutely ok.

2. Settling doesn't have to be an option.

The only time you should settle is if there is absolutely no other option for you. Otherwise, always make the choice that will make you happiest.

3. It's ok to carve your own path.

Your priorities may be different from those of others, but that doesn't mean they're wrong. Decide what matters most to you and never stray from those priorities.

4. Keep your friends close, especially those you can't see every week.

When you're not constantly surrounded by your friends on campus, it can be tough to see them unless you actively set aside time to do so. My advice? Do it. Set aside time to see them and stay in touch. Even if you can't see them every week, even a quick text or call can go a long way.

5. You have all the tools you need to succeed, so you will find the path that works for you.

Bottom line: You have absolutely everything you need to succeed in life right at your fingertips. Take the tools and knowledge you have, use them to motivate yourself and follow your dreams, and everything will work out the way it's supposed to.

6. Maintain the connections you make.

Whether it's with your teachers, classmates, people you met during extracurricular activities, fellow interns, bosses, or others, make sure you keep those connections alive. Nurture the relationship as you would a friendship because what comes around goes around and you never know when you can help one another.

7. The choices you make are not permanent.

It is not the end of the world if you realize any decision you made was not the right one for you. Very few things in life are permanent, so becoming comfortable with and open to change and taking each moment as it comes is vital.

8. It's never too late.

Because nothing is permanent, I also strongly believe it is never too late. For anything. Take that and run with it — and let it be what comforts you whenever you are considering a new path.

9. Don't be afraid to tell people to mind their business.

No, this is not something I literally recommend... I was half kidding. But what I mean by this is that it is not necessarily important to let everyone know every little thing you are doing when they ask (if you don't want to). People will always be nosey and unless you feel comfortable discussing it, simply respond to their questions with honest, yet matter-of-fact statements like "I'm figuring it out."

10. Remind yourself it's ok to feel the emotions that the next year or so will bring.

Senior year and the year after graduation will be a mix of emotions and they all are 117 percent normal. Let yourself feel any and all of the emotions that come your way.