When you graduate college, after the “congratulations!” Facebook posts stop rolling in, after your relatives stop patting you on the back and stop asking what your future plans are, after all of the hip-hip-hoorays are done, there is a daunting stillness in your life that no one really tells you about.
It doesn’t matter if you’re coming out of college with a full-time job lined up or if you’re still in limbo, wandering from part-time job to part-time job.
I mean, people do talk about it being kind of strange not waking up for class or having to study for exams. And people talk about how stressful it is to be in the workplace, dealing with taxes, having adult problems.
But those are all strangely little things compared to the big thing that no one talks about.
No one talks about how utterly lost you can feel after you leave school.
And no one says that it’s okay to feel like you don’t have a place anymore because for pretty much your entire life, you have classified yourself as a student, first and foremost.
It has been about four months since I had to stop calling myself a student. I proudly graduated from an accredited research university amongst many wonderful friends. I was hopeful, bright-eyed, and sure that things would be great. But still, I am at a loss.
I don’t know if it is the romanticized notion of the adult world that so many young adults have or if maybe I just clung too tightly to the university. But, regardless of what it is, I feel unsatisfied, like when you are forced to close up a book you just started getting into. People say that chapters of your life have to end so you can start a new one, but what happens when you aren’t ready to start a new chapter? What happens when you feel like all the characters are having a wonderful storyline except you? What happens when you feel lost?
I’ve always been one to want things to happen organically, but leaving the university felt so forced for me. It wasn’t natural or normal or some organic progression that made sense. I just wasn’t ready, or maybe I refused to be ready.
A college education is supposed to unlock so many wonderful doors. It is supposed to be the track that leads you to some amazing destination. But it feels like everyone is arriving to their destination a lot quicker than I am.
No one tells you that you might feel that way. No one tells you that along with adult problems, like paying bills and working long hours, you sometimes feel desperately lonely.
I have a good number of friends that graduated at the same time I did. I see a good handful of them on a regular basis. That eases the loneliness. But, I have a good number of friends still in college. And though I know we all have our separate responsibilities and roles to take care of, it is hard to not be in the same place, physically or emotionally, as them.
It is difficult knowing that friends are too busy with school to talk to you or spend time with you. It is difficult knowing that you are no longer an important part of their life because you are not a student like them. It is difficult knowing that the foundation of many relationships in college is the simple fact that you were in college at the same time as they were. And now that you are graduated and formally finished with school, that relationship no longer is as important as you may have perceived.
No one tells you that.
Graduating college, I have recently been joking about how old I am.
At twenty-one, I know that numerically, I am far from being what society classifies as “old”. But, I think what I mean is that I feel “old”. I feel cast aside by some of my peers, many of whom I considered friends. I feel unenergized and unwilling to venture out of my comfort zone. I feel like I don’t know how to move past this strange lull in my post-graduate life. I feel like I am desperately clinging to the relationships I have because I am so scared of being unable to make new ones.
As a typically extroverted and charismatic person, I feel terrible being so afraid and uncertain of how life continues on when I am so unready and unwilling to move along with it. I think when you stop being something you identify with for so long, like being a student, that tends to happen.
No one tells you that.
I don’t know if I’ll slowly overcome my obscure sense of abandonment or if I’ll just learn to tune it out. I don’t know if I’ll get used to seeing only three or four people on a regular basis compared to my multitude of friendship circles I had whilst in college. I don’t know if these feelings are normal or not. I honestly don’t know anything. College taught me a lot, but it didn’t teach me how to deal with not being in college anymore.
I hate to be melodramatic, but no one told me how to healthily grieve the loss of something so abstract as your own identity. Not being a student anymore has been an incredibly debilitating experience for me. No one told me that could happen. And even though I’m not technically a student, I’m still constantly learning.
And I guess, that’s going to have to be enough for me.