Honestly, sometimes I still have a hard time realizing that I have been out of college for a whole year. Then I’m grocery shopping, getting up much too early, unsuccessfully making jello( real story), and going to work every day, and I remember. Oh, do I remember.
College is such an amazing time in every young person’s life. It is where you discover who you are, meet friends that last a lifetime, and nap as much as you want.
However, like all good things, college also has to come to an end. Soon enough everyone will walk across the stage and hold a diploma in their hand that signifies everything they have worked and cried for these past four years. And, then, just like that, it’s all over. You pack up the dorm room full of memories, hug your friends tightly goodbye as you scatter across the country, and move back home to wait. Wait for your life to begin or at least get a job.
As much as you may say you are ready and that you loathe college, no one is really ready for the transition that comes after college. One day you’re walking around safe in your college bubble, and then pop! Suddenly you have to cook for yourself, and pay for everything, and get up early.
I hope that in this article I can help to give encouragement and strength to those of you who are about to embark on the messy, hilarious, and incredibly new journey to adulthood. Though the college years are amazing for most, society lies to us when they say that college is the best four years of our lives. They are not the best; they are the start of a much more fulfilling and joyful life. So, if I could go back to this time last year when I was studying hard for my finals and trying to squeeze in every possible second with my best friends, what would I say?
Laugh At Yourself
Adulthood is going to kick you around that first couple of months. You may be starting a job you thought college prepared you for, only to realize that you have retained nothing and have no idea what you are doing. You may move into an apartment for the first time and have to cook for yourself, only to realize that you can only make cereal. You may be moving to a city far from your family and friends, and have to find your own church and a new community.
Times will be tough, confusing, and hilarious. I can’t tell you the number of times that I screwed up cooking, I mean terribly, and still am, my first year out of college. So learn the difference between the things that should upset you and the things you just need to laugh off.
Be open and willing to learn new things. I have learned more this past year than I did all four years of college combined. Most of that comes from the real experience I am getting at my job, but a lot of it is personal. I have learned how to be a friend outside of college, how to order deli meat at the grocery store, how to go to church by myself, how to be on my own, what I like to do in my spare time, and how to successfully not nap through the day. You will be learning a lot too. So, don’t go into that job thinking you know everything or act that way to your friends. I guarantee after a week of being a real adult you’ll realize just how little you actually know.
For instance, this time last year I had no idea that in two short weeks, the internship I had secured for the summer would be taken away, and several weeks later I would be starting at a company I had never heard of my four years at Grove City. God definitely has a sense of humor, but He also will lead you. When everything else around you is changing, including the scenery, know that the God that you have worshipped and loved for many years never changes.
Action: Keep a journal of that first year after college. This will be a great place to keep your thoughts safe when you need to whine, and to laugh at the misadventures that you are sure to get into. I promise you after your first year out of college you will be able to find yourself chuckling at the entries of you not knowing how to grocery shop or do things that are second nature to you now at your job.
Let Go Of Crazy Expectations
I think that society puts a ton of pressure on college grads, or maybe we just put that pressure on ourselves, to have it all figured out the minute we walk across that stage. But that is completely insane. If anything, you are even more lost and confused after graduation than you were going in. The world is your oyster, and you enter the workforce fresh and having no idea what you are doing. No one is expecting you to get a raise two months after starting that first job, for that first job to be your forever job, or for you to have it all figured out.
Do yourself a favor during this time and take a break from social media. This is especially true if you aren’t quite sure what God has planned for you after graduation. It can be all too easy when you are stuck at home at your parent’s house desperate for anyone to hire you, to compare yourself to those around you. To the people that have those coveted jobs, are getting engaged, are moving to new cities. Everyone looks so pulled together, much more than you are sitting in your childhood bedroom.
But friends, no one posts their tears on social media. No one posts the number of rejection letters they got before landing that job, no one posts when they are crying of loneliness during those first months in a new city, no one vents their frustrations about having to put their own gym into a GPS because they have no idea how to get anywhere in their new strange town.
As a college graduate, I can guarantee that everyone is struggling in some new way. It might not be the same way that you are, but trust me, your peers are just as lost and clueless as you feel.
Action: Pray. Pray on your knees and be honest. Don’t let social media make you question who you are or how much God loves you. Be honest with your friends and family when you are struggling. Vulnerability leads to more vulnerability. Your friends may just be waiting and wanting you to admit you are so freaking lost. We are all works in progress; we are not completed until we get to heaven. So take the pressure off and realize it’s totally normal to be so lost and so confused. Isn’t that what your 20s are for?
Lean Into Community
One of the hardest parts of leaving college behind for me was the incredible friends that I made. There is a certain bond that is unlike any other that you have with your college friends. You lived with them, learned with them, and experienced life closely together for the past four years. They shaped you into who you are, and you shaped them. It can be hard to set out to find a new community and to keep the old. But here are some tips I have.
Set a schedule
- Life gets crazy and so busy, make those friendships that you want to keep in your life a priority. Set aside a time each week or month to talk to certain friends. Trust me; if you don’t plan it, it won’t happen. And don’t be worried to initiate talking with friends first. The last time I checked people don’t get upset when you want to continue to invest in them.
Set up visits
- Yes, phone calls, social media, and Skype are great, but you also need to make time to see these friends. Plan a girls trip, come together for Homecoming, or drive down to see them some weekend. This is especially vital if you are single because when you get married, it is going to be more challenging to visit those dear friends whenever you feel like it.
Community takes work
- It doesn’t really take any work to make friends in college. Yes, you do have to talk to people and put yourself out there, but from what I remember from my freshman year, pretty much everyone is thirsty for friends. You are surrounded by people that have similar beliefs and are actually your age. You can walk up to someone, introduce yourself, and they are your new best friend. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t quite so easy. The truth is, if you don’t put yourself out there and seek out finding new friends and community, you won’t find it. If you stay in every Saturday night to watch Netflix, you’ll be watching it alone by yourself six months later just the same.
Yes, continue to invest in your college friends, but as Christians, we were created for community. Phone calls from long distance friends every week are great, but we need face to face interaction too. As a very extroverted person, I thought finding community would be so easy. It is NOT! It takes a lot of effort and time. It takes dealing with rejection and awkwardness and showing up to a young adult group again and again when you know no one.
But, after those months of trying your best to find that community, I promise you it will happen. When you put the effort in, pray for Godly friends, and seek them out, you will find them. But don’t expect people just to befriend you automatically.
So here are some tips if you are moving to a new place:
Join a small group
This is an easy way to get close to people and also have a weekly commitment. These are people just like you who are seeking out a community and are willing to put in the effort to find it. Go a couple of times before you throw in the towel, I know that my first judgments of people are usually very wrong.
Connect with other college people
Try to scope out if anyone from your college is moving to or around the area you will be living. Yes, you may not have been close or even known them well in college, but that doesn’t mean they can’t become some of your closet friends post-college. These are people who can help to fill the college-shaped hole in your heart that throbs so much that first year away.
Go to public places. Join a gym, go to a coffee shop, go to church, but don’t sit on your couch, cry, and call your mom. Get out there and make some friends.
Yes, finding community outside of college is a longer and harder process than it is in college, but it is so worth it. God will bring you the friends you need and friends that also need you, but you have to be willing to put in some work.
Action: Make it a goal and priority to invite someone new or someone you met for the first time to hang out with you this week. When I first moved to Lancaster and started meeting people, I made it my goal to try to hang out with two new people each month. Now, I didn’t always meet that goal, but it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone to meet up with people and make those close relationships happen.
Life after college is a crazy, unexpected, but beautiful journey. I am so excited for you to begin this journey and hope that my advice can help you along the way. Remember that God directs your steps and He will not lead you somewhere He isn’t. Trust that He knows your plan and enjoy the ride.