5 Things I Wish I Knew The Summer After Graduation

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By De Elizabeth

I can remember the summer after graduation almost perfectly. College ended with very little fanfare; sure, there were fireworks and there was a barbecue, but the next morning felt pretty much like any other college Sunday: brunch in town, cleaning the suite, and going through pictures from the night before. Except this time, I was also packing up and leaving – and never coming back. 

Full disclosure, my post-college plan kind of sucked. I majored in theatre and my “plan” wasn’t really a plan at all – I was going to move to NYC, wait tables or bartend, and audition as much as I could. By some sheer stroke of luck, or a combination of luck and being in the right place at the right time, I landed a (paid) performing job just two weeks after graduation. By mid-June, I was halfway across the country, residing in a house with over a dozen other actors, and basically living out my own thespian version of The Real World.

But the life of a professional musical theater actress is not one that guarantees answers, and five months later, I was right back where I started – looking for jobs and apartments in Manhattan.

If I had to characterize my post-grad summer, it would be filled with adjectives such as whimsicalcarefree, and jaunty. I worked hard that summer – quite possibly harder than I ever worked in my entire life. I was in rehearsals for 10 hours a day, and when I wasn’t rehearsing, I was performing some kind of theatrical slave labor, like cleaning out a costume loft that was rife with furry spiders, or painting a pirate ship in 95 degree weather. As anyone who has ever done summer stock theater will tell you, I made some of the greatest friends of my entire life, and lived probably a thousand stories in just over one hundred days.

But as I write this post, almost ten years later (wtf), I feel very distant from that carefree person, the girl who didn’t really care that she was living in a gross house with inevitable mold growing underneath the foundation, the girl who didn’t make any money and probably couldn’t tell you what a 401(k) is. It’s easy to look back from the position of an actual career and salary and laugh at the person I used to be, but I suppose I’m mostly proud. So many people told me to have a backup plan, to try to get an internship, that there’s no way I’d get an actual paid performing job so quickly after graduation. And even though it was temporary, and even though it was in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin, it happened, and I did that.

This is not your typical, “I wish I knew how to manage money when I was 22,” type of list. Here are some things I really wish I had known during that first summer after college:

1. It’s okay to not always have a plan.

It’s so easy to find yourself filled with anxiety when all of your other friends have 5-year plans and post-grad internships lined up before they even don their caps and gowns. But if your plan is to figure it out as you go, that’s okay too. You will figure it out.

2. Post-grads are still babies.

I felt *so* old at 22. Looking back now, I realize how young I actually was, and how much time I had to discover what it is I wanted to do. That’s not to say that you should take that time for granted, or waste it, but don’t feel like you’re officially an “adult” just because you walked across that stage and got your diploma. You were a teenager just three years ago. Live in the moment, embrace this summer before it turns into “the summer you were 22.” It will be a memory before you know it.

3. Friendships will require work…

Friendships are almost a default of college. It’s so easy to walk across campus and see your best friend in her dorm, but when you’re living in two different cities (maybe on two different coasts) you actually have to put effort into making that friendship last.

4. …But time and distance are never factors in the best of friendships.

I used to see my college best friends every single day, multiple times a day. We would eat every meal together, run errands together, study together, and sometimes even have sleepovers when we were too tired to walk back to our own dorms after a late night. Now, sometimes I go months without seeing them. But every time we get back together, it’s like no time has passed at all.

5. Choosing practicality is not admitting defeat.

Our generation is not one that strives for practical professions. We are told at such a young age that we can be anything that we want, that we should follow our dreams, that we can make it happen. The reality is that this is not always true. Choosing a career that is stable, secure, and comforting can almost feel like giving up when we are constantly accosted with the idea that we must chase our dreams until we catch them. The truth is that the words “passion” and “job” don’t have to be the same. In fact, sometimes, it’s better when they aren’t. Our lives always have room for passion – and it doesn’t have to be between the hours of 9 and 5.

Tell Us: What do you wish you knew when you graduated college?

 {featured image via pexels

2 thoughts on “5 Things I Wish I Knew The Summer After Graduation

  1. Eliza David says:

    I graduated from college 16 years ago (!!!) but I remember how weird it felt to be completely responsible for myself. My mom would send me money if I needed it but I went from a dorm to an apartment with bills. It woke me up and shot me right into adulthood fast.

    Like

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