Technically, it’s been a little over a year since I graduated from college, but it’s my birthday today which always makes me want to be reflective over the past year. Life after college has been both challenging and rewarding at the same time. I feel like I’ve grown so much more in this past year than I did in the four years of actual college believe it or not! I’ve been thinking about where I was mentally at this time last year and there really have been a lot of changes that I can see in myself.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED IN LIFE AFTER COLLEGE:
Everybody is uncertain about what’s next
I can’t tell you how many times my close friends and I have talked about how we just don’t know what the heck we’re doing/want to do with our lives next. In college, you always knew what was coming up: next course to take, next test, next grade to get, etc. but that certainty doesn’t exist anymore once you graduate. While having your first job or being in grad school may *seem* certain or structured, you’re all of a sudden thinking about the ~rest of your life~. What do you want it to look like? Are you in the right place/job/city to get to where you want to go? Where DO I want to go? You get the picture. What’s amazing about feeling like this is that everybody else is in the same dang boat. Growing up wouldn’t be a thing if we knew all the answers, but that sure would be nice!
Here a few things that I do when I get freaky about the future:
- Talk to the friends that are a little bit older than me: They’ve been in this headspace before and have been out of college a pinch longer than I have. It’s so nice to have someone say, “I totally get what you’re going through.” They help me to translate my worries into words and concrete actions I can take to feel less freaked out about my life’s plan.
- Be honest with myself about my career: I know deep down that I eventually want to run my own business and have the freedom that comes with self-employment. Knowing and accepting this about myself helps me to frame my plans for the next couple of years in what I need to learn and do to get to self-employment at some point. It also keeps me going on the tough days at work because I know that I’m learning skills and lessons that will prepare me in the future as a business owner.
- Write out some generic goals: Since I definitely don’t know all of my life goals at this point, I’ve been trying to focus on shorter term time frames with my goals instead. I’m also keeping them generic because I know that when I get too into the nitty gritty I can overdo it and end up beating myself up for not meeting unrealistic expectations. I’ve started setting generic goals for the month ahead of me like finances, books, or working towards getting a car (inspo from Molly On The Move’s post!). I write out a few bullet points beneath each goal that are easily actionable steps toward that goal for the month. As the months go by and you re-evaluate your goals, themes will start to pop up that can help you get clarity on what you’re prioritizing over and over again. That could lead you to knowing what your dream job is or what a passion of yours is! The process just helps me to take things one step at a time and *attempt* to calm down about not knowing exactly how the future will unfold.
YOU have to take responsibility over your health & wellbeing
You might’ve just read that and thought, “yeah, duh.” But hear me out! I think in college we take for granted that we’re young and very healthy. I know that I pushed aside feelings of my worsening anxiety in college because I kept thinking that I shouldn’t feel this way. I was in college – it was supposed to be the best and happiest time of my life! But that mentality led to stubbornness and shame when it came to admitting I didn’t feel 100% physically or mentally. I really had to get over that this year…
A few weeks after graduation, some of my blood work from a routine checkup really alarmed my doctor and he recommended that I have an expensive (and scary) procedure within 2-3 months of that appointment. After the initial shock of learning this, I had to kick it into high gear to hunt down answers about what was up with my body and my health. That meant finding and scheduling appointments with other specialists and doctors that could help me figure everything out. In the end, I learned that I have an autoimmune condition that was causing the issues with my blood work results. Luckily, it’s easily treatable, but I would have never known had I just remained scared about those results.
I am beyond grateful for the doctors who have helped me along this journey. It gave me a crash course in being more aware of my body/how I’m feeling and to not wait for something scary to happen to take charge of my health. As annoying, time-consuming, and oftentimes frightening it can be to go through something like this, there really is no greater feeling than taking the necessary steps to be as healthy as you should be. Like my mom always says to me, “What’s the alternative?!” And she’s right! Again, it’s hard to admit when we’re not feeling our best, but on the other side of that shame, there’s maximum healthiness and happiness to be had 🙂
Change comes from action, not thought
I could only think “ugh” to myself writing this point but, unfortunately, it’s very, very true. Ugh again! I spent months just talking and talking about changes I wanted to see in my life but never did anything about it. Why? Because I was (am still more often than not) scared that I’d be a huge failure and make a wrong choice for my life. I’m a Libra, so I can be very indecisive and spend countless days and hours evaluating different decisions and trying to predict which would have the better outcome. But the only thing I’m doing is wasting time on taking action to get things done! Over this past year in life after college, I’ve had to try very hard to be brave, push through my fear, and take the actions I need to to see changes. It’s always tough for me to move forward on something when I’m scared, but so many more positives have come from me taking action than what would’ve happened had I done nothing at all!
The journey is the destination
We’ve arrived at my final point a.k.a. the hardest lesson for me to learn in life after college and maybe in life in general. I had never realized how I perceived happiness until I read a few books (particularly this one) this year that talked about how some people treat happiness as a destination. A strange thought, right? There has always been a checklist of life accomplishments in my head that I needed to address before I thought I could be or deserved to be happy, so to say. I never understood until now that if you’re not happy along the journey, you’re never going to be! There’s always something else to put on the list to accomplish.
What I’ve learned in life after college is that happiness and joy happen in moments. This was something that was initially hard for me to accept. I had the misperception that everything needed to be happy and perfect all the time. And if it wasn’t, then I thought I was doing something wrong and I’d write out another list of goals to achieve to get me closer to eventual happiness later in life. I’m working really hard on staying more aware in these moments of joy to see how I’ve grown, how I’d like to grow more, and what I’ve learned. I’m now looking at my journey as the beautiful path I’m taking that leads me to these happy moments that overwhelm me with gratitude and love or leave me feeling so proud of myself for being brave and pushing through my fears.
Thanks for reading along if you’ve made it this far – I know this was a longer post! I’m so happy to have a place to share and open up about my journey in life after college and what I’m learning. Any other recent college graduates out there that with any more tips or lessons about life after college? Please share – I’d love to hear and chat!
Head here to read last year’s birthday post and learn 23 things you might not know about me 😉
Photography by Vanessa Chavez