It’s graduation time for undergrads the world over (or at least the US over. I don’t know how other countries operate). In fact, Penn’s commencement was yesterday (which made me mostly uninterested in getting anywhere near campus.) And as my social media outlets are crammed with Instagrams of grad caps and heartfelt Facebook statuses bidding institutions of learning fond farewells (or less-than-fond ‘f*** you’s, for the jaded grads), I can’t help but harken back to 2009, my own college graduation year. Chapel Hill does grad weekend right, and the sun was shining as the Carolina blue reminded all of us that Mother Nature is probably a Tar Heel.
The weeks leading up to graduation were some of the most socially packed, emotionally wrecked weeks of my life. It wasn’t until I’d received a formal hiring letter that I finally let myself breathe. My partner at the time didn’t understand why I was getting so worked up (he, a year younger, was still a ways off from the panic I was experiencing, and wasn’t one for panicking regardless.) And after a weekend of pomp AND circumstance, a jaunt back north for a mini “summer” (during which I broke my left foot, not part of the ideal “summer break”), I went back to Carolina, ready to begin my grown up life.
Only, I’ll be totally honest, the first 9 months after my graduation were some of the most miserable of my life.
Isn’t that awful? I recognize that this was largely my own doing, but that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable to remember… Four years removed, I’ll say I picked up a little perspective. And there are heaps of advice I’d give myself… But I’ll stick with the stuff that might actually be valuable for sharing with the general population, not those pieces that would only be relevant to me (i.e. stop watching your friends play frisbee if you have a broken foot, it will only make you depressed.)
1. Don’t live beyond your means, but try to at least live a little. I had this confused world view which led me to believe that until I had heaps of money saved, I should live like a hermit. I didn’t use the AC or the heat during the wild seasonal extremes that Carolina loves so much. Shivering under blankets in my own home in the middle of the winter was not only unpleasant, but just dumb. Turn the heat up. Bask in the fact that you’re making SOME money. Take the Slanket off for ten minutes.
2. Figure out your body chemistry. I mean this specifically regarding alcohol. And I’ll follow up by saying I’m STILL working on this. I wish someone had slapped me upside the head at graduation and been like “HEY! Just a heads up, you can no longer handle the following: shots (including, but not limited to, shots from glasses, bottle shots, body shots), beer bongs, drinking games where the only goal is not skill but speed-consumption, mixing alcohol types of any kind, and probably a number of options you haven’t even thought of yet.”
Chances are, though, someone WILL slap you upside the head with that information at some point in your life, and you’ll still take a few years for it to sink in. So thanks to that person who slapped me with it, and sorry that I’m not faster at taking it to heart. I’m a work in progress.
3. Learn to feed yourself right. Now, this one kind of went with the Living within my means/hermit lifestyle, but my steady diet of rice, black beans, cheese, and chicken if I felt like “treating myself” did not a healthy woman make.
The occasional entire massive turkey leg or frozen pepperoni pizza probably didn’t help either.
Learn the deals at your grocery store, figure out what you like that ALSO is healthy, and enjoy those “treat yourself” treats occasionally. Not nightly.
4. Get a gym membership. And don’t get the cheapest one. Because if it’s super cheap, I bet you won’t go. Just saying. Financial commitment SOMETIMES means ACTUAL commitment. Not always, but enough.
5. For the LOVE OF GOD meet some grown-up, totally new friends.
College buddies are great, don’t get me wrong. So are those “Lifers” that you’ve known since elementary, middle, or high school. But after about a year and a half of longing for the days of bar-hopping on Franklin Street and feeling sorry for myself that I couldn’t just stumble out of my room and be surrounded by fraternity brothers and sisters, I took some action. And I decided I, to, could make friends OUTSIDE of school.
This has been the best decision of my “grown-up” life, thus far.
It’s not as hard or as scary as you might think. There are websites entirely dedicated to meeting new people. Get on Yelp, on Meetup, find something going on in your community, join an adult rec league for sports (that was my preferred method for my favorite post-college gang). Maybe you’re even lucky enough to work somewhere where you can find (GASP) work friends!
Whatever you do, though, find some buddies. It stops you from living in the past, and makes it all that sweeter when you DO go back to your college/high school/preschool buddies and show them how cool you still are, even after all these years.
Here’s the thing: there’s no “right way” to grow up, I guess. Hell, I haven’t even done it yet, hence the whole “college 2.0” idea of grad school. But I think those little bits and pieces of advice would’ve helped ease the transition.
I hope they help ease someone’s transition.