I dreaded graduating college. In the months leading up to doomsday (a.k.a graduation, which happened to fall on Friday the 13th) every time someone would ask me, “When do you graduate? Are you excited? Do you have a job?” I just wanted to cry, crawl into a hole and hide from the impending departure from my beloved life. No, I wasn’t excited! Who would be psyched about leaving behind a life of learning and more importantly, a life of leisure? Looking back, college harbored some of the most stressful moments of my life, but it was also a time of flexibility. I loved waking up at noon if I wanted to, making my own schedule, skipping a class if I desperately needed a nap, going out in the middle of the week, and being a part of my sorority’s lively activities. I didn’t want to graduate, I wasn’t ready to move on, and I certainly wasn’t ready for this miserable and scary “real world” I’d heard so much about. No jobs? Student loan debt? Bad entry level salaries? Sign me up!
My feelings about leaving undergraduate life behind were so strong that looking back six months after graduation, I’m amazed by my change of heart. I love my life right now. In August, just a few weeks after my starting my first “big girl” job, I went back to my sorority to help out with recruitment tallying, and I spend some time chatting with ladies from my pledge class who had also recently graduated and entered the workforce. They were miserable. They hated it. They wanted to be back in college. I nodded along as if I was in the same melancholy boat, but inside I was smiling at my good fortune and trying not to pinch myself in public.
Life after college? Not half bad. Not bad at all. It’s actually pretty damn amazing. Sure, I have to wake up early every day and work from 9 to 5, but for the most part, my job is done when I leave the office for the day. I don’t have to stay up all night studying, endure the constant beep of incoming emails on my Blackberry nor do I have to juggle the complicated schedule of multiple classes, a 40-hours-a-week capstone, a job and a relationship. Even when I was at my most relaxed in college, there was still an undercurrent of stress — “When’s that test again? I better nail down that source or this entire story folds! What do you mean a girl just broke her neck at the bar we’re having our social at next week and now I have to convince my chapter advisor that it’s a safe place or the social’s off and 200 girls are disappointed!” (And yes, that really did happen.) I don’t have that constant stress-induced stream of consciousness anymore, and it’s incredibly refreshing. I felt like I could never catch my breathe long enough in college, and now I’m much more at peace. I don’t get that twisty gut feeling on Sunday nights, and I don’t dread Monday mornings.
For those of you facing graduating in December or even May: Don’t freak out. There are lots of scary statistics out there about unemployment and our generation’s depressing plight, but I’ve found that the reality is less startling. Of course, I have been very fortunate: Just when I thought I would have to leave my beloved college town forever and endure a sure-to-be-soul-crushing long-distance relationship, I was offered an amazing job in Columbia out-of-the-blue, and I immediately scored a roomy and homey adult apartment. Things aligned for me, and I realize how blessed I am. But seeing a majority of my friends snag great jobs too has made me realize that my story isn’t an exception to the rule. Our generation is not doomed to fail. I still have a lot to learn about being an adult — budgeting, cooking, keeping house —but I’m not struck with fear at the thought of my future anymore. I feel incredibly blessed and excited for what the universe has to bring.