Now What? Reflections on life post college graduation:

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A little over a week ago, I arrived home from my other home for the past four years at The University of Georgia…for good. I graduated with some of my best friends and had an amazing and bittersweet weekend celebrating such a big milestone in my life. Sitting in the glorious football stadium on graduation night, alongside thousands of my fellow graduates and watching the celebratory firework display shooting into the night sky above us, I hadn’t yet realized that I was no longer a student, but an alumna of an amazing school and officially part of the “real world.” Even today, a week after being separated from my adorable house, roommates, and college town, I still don’t think the reality has set in. In a few weeks, I start a retail management internship at one of my favorite companies, Nordstrom, in northern Virginia. I’ll luckily be joined by my best childhood friend while living in NoVa, but still, things will be different as a college grad. I’m no longer a kid and it’s finally time to truly be a responsible human being and accountable for all of my actions and decisions. I can’t say that this is a depressing change, but it will be a different, new, and hopefully exciting part of being a college graduate! I’m sure that all of you who have also just finished your college career and are either at home searching for a job or starting a new one have similar feelings about this whole “real world” thing. It’s scary and bittersweet, but it’s also exciting. For those of you who, like me, fell in love with your college town and couldn’t help but cry when leaving it behind, I am happy to share the knowledge that these places that we still want to call home will change, just as we are changing. I’m glad that I’ll at least be aware that when I return to one of my favorite places in the world, Athens, GA, it won’t be the same as it was when I was in college there. I’ll always remember that town the way that I left it, surrounded by years of memories and best friends, and (hopefully) be accepting when it doesn’t feel or look the same upon my next return. This, I’m pretty confident about, which actually does make it easier to put the past behind and move into the next chapter of my life.

So, over the past week that I have been home in Virginia, it feels as if I’ve been extremely busy unpacking and repacking my life. I haven’t had too much time to mull over the sad thoughts of actually being finished with college and not being around my school friends, which is actually a great thing. Whether it’s a good quality or not, I sometimes hate to face reality, especially when it involves saying goodbye, so I can’t help but consider this “busy-ness” a necessity for my soul right now.

I’ll admit, trying to see old friends, cherish my beautiful backyard, and explore new restaurants and hotspots that have popped up while I’ve been away has been stressful, but I know that these are opportunities that I cannot miss before leaving my childhood home so soon. Since I only have about two more weeks until my departure, I wanted to put together a list of things that everyone (including myself), who has recently graduated and is stuck in this unexplainable state of limbo, should try to do. I’ve personally checked off a few of these tasks already, but I know that true closure can only be successful if everything on this list is at least attempted before leaving. I urge you to do the same if you have the time because (hopefully) it’ll set you in the right direction to a great start in the next chapter of your life! Good luck!

1. Unpack everything you brought home as quickly as possible- the sooner you do this, the better; I know it sucks but it has to be done!

2. Take or print out some of your favorite college pictures and actually put them into a picture frame (not just onto your iPhoto)- you’ll     soon cherish actually having hard copies of these pictures in your new place!  

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3. Get everything you need for your new place (if you aren’t living at home) before you actually move in and start a job. Spending your first night in a new place will be much more peaceful knowing that you’re DONE with decorating and shopping and you’ll be able to actually focus on the new job instead of where to find the cheapest mattress for your new bed after work!

4. Get a haircut- you’ve probably been pretty lazy at college when it comes to grooming and your hair in particular; maybe mom and dad will pay for your new haircut and you can leave feeling like the newly mature adult that you’ve become!

5. Spend as much time with your family as possible- if you’re heading to a new town or even just moving out of the family home, you won’t realize how important family is until your probably already gone; and yes, try to listen to the hours of lectures and “advice” coming your way…even though it’s annoying to hear, they most likely know what’s best for you

6. Also, try to spend time with old friends…but especially the ones who really matter- yes, it’s fun and exciting to hang out and party with old friends from high school, but really take the time to spend quality time with those who care about you the most. By now, you should know who those people are.

7. Catch up on all of your TV shows or see that funny movie that just came out in theaters while you can- exams and school put me way behind on the TV shows that I love to watch and I NEVER went to the movies in college, and most likely things will be the same when you start a new job or the job search. Take advantage of this time to get all of your guilty pleasures out of your system.

8. Get back into that hobby that you always wanted to do at school, but “never had time to do” – I always wanted to read, sketch, and play guitar at school but felt as if I never had enough time to do it all. This small amount of time at home is your chance to get into it again and make it a habit to devote a few hours a week to whatever hobby you have so you can keep up with it in the future!

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9. Take the time to play and cuddle with your pets as much as you can if you’ll be leaving them again and DO NOT get your own pet! Even though everyone wants a dog after graduation (myself included), you need to realize that this is actually the worst time to get one. You need time for yourself and your career, without the stress on time and money that comes with owning a new puppy; no matter now much you want one!

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10. Learn to cook…and not just ramen noodles or grilled cheese – I am lucky that I’m obsessed with food and love to cook, but I know that so many people my age are the complete opposite. When you’re on your own and actually have to be an adult, you’ll need to know how to cook healthy meals and start treating your body right early on. You also get bonus points if you start working out or continue your workout routine that you maintained in college!

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11. Learn how to save money and actually listen to your mom or dad when they’re telling you how to do it! As a part of the millennial generation, we have so many barriers and roadblocks when it comes to making and saving money. Everyone is in debt but doesn’t know how to reverse the damage. We need to really work on our spending habits since the recession put a damper on a lot of our job opportunities, wallets, and positive outlooks for the future. The time to start is NOW!

12. Even though it may sound really cheesy, gather all of your special college memorabilia (if you saved it), such as ticket stubs, silly photos, and road trip souvenirs, and put them into a container specified for your college memories. Every now and then, you may want to revisit some of these memories and there is no easier way to do this than by simply pulling out that special box!

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