When I graduated college last May, I felt like I had reached this amazing ending, and was so excited for a new beginning in law school. I thought “I just need to finish college, and the world will open up.” I was wrong. The world was already open to me, and I think the amazing thing about college is that you’re an adult, living on your own, getting your life “together,” but you also aren’t fully an adult yet. You don’t, necessarily, have the responsibilities of full blown adulthood. I realize I’ve talked about this before, but today I wanted to share a more in-depth analysis of why the first year out of college is one of the hardest.
I was recently lamenting how nostalgic I am for college days, which is a feeling I’m not used to. I’m typically a somewhat unattached person. Usually, by the end of my time somewhere, I feel prepared to move on. And that’s what’s funny about college. I felt so ready to move on while I was in college, but now I would give just about anything to experience senior spring for just a day again. Anyway, I was lamenting my feelings to a friend of mine from law school, who lived in Russia for a year after college but before beginning law school. She was saying she was talking to a friend while she was in Russia, and both were really struggling. Typically I’d say it probably had to do with Russia, but she said most of her friends felt weird their first year after college.
I think most of the discontent comes from the feeling of loss. I spent four years creating a life, a family, a community at a college, and then left it for something totally new. Most of my college friends (read: all) don’t live nearby, and I don’t get to see them everyday. That’s a hard adjustment. Couple not seeing my favorite people everyday with being in a totally new place with totally new people, and it’s not easy. Additionally, we start feeling really displaced. It’s like, “hey, I had a home! Hey, I had a routine. Hey, I knew who I was and what I wanted!” and now… I don’t. I feel displaced, lost, roaming aimlessly trying to remember why I started what I’m currently doing because I’d rather just be jumping in my friends car, and heading to get Chinese food, followed by cheap beer and karaoke at the terrible, but close bar near campus. I’m not trying to be dramatic, or make those about to finish college feel like they should purposely fail a class so they don’t have to leave (though it is oh so tempting).
The thing is, I knew that no matter what I did or where I went after graduating Saint Mary’s was going to feel a bit inadequate. Saint Mary’s is so unique, so community based, so close-knit, that I felt like the support system I had there, the environment, wouldn’t be easily replicated once I left. While I do love Virginia, and am thankful for the friends I have here, I do find myself drifting back to Saint Mary’s when I have a second to let my mind wander. The reality is this: most people struggle to find their footing the year immediately following college. People used to tell me “make it last. See if you can stay a few extra years” and I would laugh, not really getting why they’d say that. One of the reasons I chose SMC was the guarantee I’d be out in four years. But now I get it. Four years is nothing. Four years is so fleeting… it’s not about making it last, it’s about making the most of it.
Pack your four years with so much goodness, so many memories, so many late nights, so many dumb decisions, so many “why the hell nots” that you feel like you really discovered who you are, what you want, and who matters to you. Remember why you started, stay up until the sun rises, go after that boy who makes your stomach turn, forgive the silly boy from freshman year your sophomore year, laugh until your eyes water your best friends, drink too many jack and cokes and sing that Kanye song you don’t know the lyrics to. Pretend you want to watch another episode of some random Netflix show just to spend a little extra time with someone who makes you laugh. Because soon it’ll be gone. The irresponsibility of responsibility that is college will pass, and then there will just be responsibility. So, for those of you still in college, make the most of it.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with being out of college. On Monday, all the SMC seniors were posting pictures about their last first day of school, and it made me feel so nostalgic because if only I could go back and whisper to myself: make every second matter. Make every second last because there are less of them than you think. I think a lot of my decisions my last semester of college were driven by fear of the unknown, but also the knowledge that I wouldn’t be back at SMC in the fall, prepping another residence hall for move in. I was so scared to say goodbye to college; I wanted to keep every little thing as long as I possibly could until the inevitability of parting ways was too close to ignore any longer.
So, all of that is to say that the first year after college is disorienting, and can be a real struggle. But, there is hope and positivity and good times left to be had. However, college is such a unique, special experience, and I will forever be grateful that I spent four years at such an amazing, supportive, comforting place. I miss it daily, am a little jealous of those people still spending time there, and cannot wait to return [I will be at graduation this year to see my favorite duty partners graduate].