After you’ve been in college for four years (and some sort of school for many years before that), it’s easy to idealize life in the real world. You can do ANYTHING you want at ANY TIME you want. That’s what it means to be an adult, right?
But if you’re starting a new job, you’ll suddenly realize that Friends was a lie! Twentysomethings don’t get to hang out in coffee shops all day (and any waitress with Rachel’s work ethic would never have lasted a week, let alone three seasons).
And if you don’t have a job lined up, that still doesn’t mean your life will be a constant parade of parties, dates, and monkeying around (both literal and metaphorical). It turns out that once your friends start their jobs, you’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. And it can get awfully lonely and boring if you’re not careful.
Now this is not meant to depress you—just to prepare you for the sudden shift in your lifestyle. Guest writer Chau Le has experienced it firsthand, and she has some tips to help you overcome that post-grad slump—even if you haven’t figured out your next step.
You’re done. You’ve made it. You’re out. Cap and gown donned, you’ve officially graduated from college. Those tears shed in the corner of the library every semester? Worth it.
But… what now?
The first few days of freedom came as a relief, and you vacationed in Cancun, celebrating a new world where there are no exams. It was a great month free from school. But now you’re living back home with your parents, wondering what you’re supposed to do next.
While in school, making it out of Professor What’s-his-name’s Advanced Insect Econ lecture alive was the top priority, far more important than making post-graduate plans. But all of the sudden you find yourself missing those lectures on anthill growth rates.
I (kind of) had a plan when I graduated from college—drum roll, please—more schooling! My plan was to coast until I started graduate school the following year, not recognizing the fact that graduate school was a cover-up and excuse for harnessing a deep, dark secret: I had no idea what I wanted to do.
There’s nothing wrong with going for a Master’s degree, and it can in fact be important to furthering your career later down the line. However, using school as a solution for my “lost” problem ended up blowing up in my face. [Editor’s note: Trying to decide if grad school is right for you? Check out our interview with Assistant Director of Admission at Columbia University, Margaret Okada to help answer that question.]
Instead of using the year off to focus and explore my passions and talents, I treated the time as a moment to “pause” and happily indulged in more Netflix than should be legally allowed. I was waiting for my real life to begin. So when I ended up quitting graduate school after only two weeks of classes, I learned that relying on more schooling to find career focus was not the answer.
These are the three things I wish I’d done instead:
1. Hone a skill
Planning on going back to school? Dreaming of backpacking through Europe? Stuck in your parents’ basement indefinitely? No matter what the situation is, if there is some time before you leave for your destination—or you feel like you have no destination at all—take that free time to focus on a hobby or skill.
I have generated more than 4,000 views for my blog in the last year because I used my free time to write more and network with other bloggers, and this was working in slow motion.
Imagine the amount of work you could produce, or skill you could learn if you studied every day.
What are your goals? Learn how to cook? Write a computer program? This is a chance to perfect your craft.
2. Do something outside of the house, like joining a Meetup
Let’s face it—living in your parents’ basement is a little isolating. No more tailgate parties, no student clubs, no study lounge. Meeting people outside of college is hard. Even if you were never involved in a student club or fraternity, some classes can host more than 500 people your age, raising the chances of making friends (and enemies) through oh-so-fun group projects and presentations. Let’s just say that the chances of meeting people your age diminishes considerably outside of a college environment.
Go meet people. Try a yoga class, attend a Meetup event, or join the local hockey team. Anything to get you outside. But be sure to attend something you’re interested in, in order to connect with like-minded people.
I originally resisted this idea, thinking that there was no point in making friends. If I was leaving anyway, what was the point? Enter Krav Maga. I was planning on taking a Krav Maga class once or twice a week to learn some basic self-defense skills before I left to go live alone in a foreign country. I ended up going five times a week to that gym where I made long-lasting friends who welcomed me home with open arms after I dropped out of graduate school.
You never know what’s going to happen to your plans, and why halt life for “The Perfect Future”? Be proactive and make life enjoyable now. Start networking no matter where you think you’ll end up. (And remember that networking doesn’t have to look like you wearing an uncomfortable suit and talking over a tiny plate of cubed cheese. It can just look like you meeting people and talking to them.)
3. Establish a routine
From kindergarten up until college, you had a prescribed routine: wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, come home, do homework… Even in college, when you were able to pick and choose your own schedule, though going to class and turning in homework were your primary goals.
And while you may have been under the impression that you’d be much happier after getting rid of that pesky routine, after a month of sleeping in until noon and brain atrophy from watching too much Netflix, well, school would be a welcome distraction.
Create a schedule for yourself: Wake up at a reasonable hour, have breakfast, and allocate some hours to blogging, sewing, wrestling, or even socializing. Habits and routine will keep those pesky post-grad blues away.
Finally, for better or for worse, realize that no one is going to tell you what to do anymore. You make your own rules—and that’s kind of scary. There’s a term we graduates jokingly call our “quarter-life crisis.” You’ve lived a quarter of your life, and aren’t sure what to do. What’s the purpose of life without homework? It’s admittedly not going to be easy, but hopefully these three tips will help you feel just a little less frustrated.
Homework time! Even if you don’t have a full-fledged plan for what you’re going to do after you graduate, try to make a plan that includes some of Chau’s suggestions. How can you add a little routine to your new schedule? What are some ways you can be sure to get out of the house and meet new people?
Over to you: Do you have any tips for beating the post-graduation blues? Let us know in the comments section below!
About the author: Chau Le is an avid globetrotting polyglot, who has an unhealthy romance with Nutella, an attraction to writing, and an addiction to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Read more of Chau’s writing at http://thetravelingcherub.wordpress.com.