A few days ago, I asked the beautiful crowdsource to share how their post-grad experience was going. I received responses ranging from “this is tough as shit” to “life is pretty good and I’m having a great time” to “where are the friends?” Thank you to everyone who submitted responses — I had an amazing time reading everyone’s stories. Hopefully you’ll find someone’s experience in this mish-mash of responses to be similar to yours. At the end of this post is a conglomeration of advice that your fellow twenty-somethings had to share. Find inspiration, keep your head up, and power on.
Here’s what you had to say:
In the post-grad deluge, people expect you to have your shit together
In my first month of full-time employment following graduation, I learned that suddenly people expect you to be mature and know exactly what you’re doing … when just a few months ago you were drinking vodka from a plastic water bottle on the back of the F bus and sleeping through 11am lecture. -Anonymous, 22 years old
I’ve started to realize that growing up isn’t about getting your shit together, it’s about realizing that nobody ever actually got their shit together, and we’re all just really good at faking it. -Scott Stedman, 22 years old, photographer at Seattle Magazine
You’re so much more on your own after graduating from college. I find that freeing and scary at the same time. I think you just grown into it after a while. Hopefully. -EK, 21 years old, PhD student
Some of us are having a really hard time …
I got a job right before graduation, doing something I didn’t really have any interest in for pretty good entry-level money. I moved to a new city where I don’t know anyone within an hours’ drive. I found a random craigslist roommate and moved into an apartment. Within the first week, I had ethical concerns about the company’s business dealings, and I found myself being let go under suspicious circumstances after being in the office for five days. I’ve been unemployed for just over a month now, and I still have no real friends in this new place. I’ve been dating this girl for a few weeks, but I honestly think I’m seeing her more out of loneliness than actually liking her. I play basketball and ultimate frisbee once a week with some people from Meetup, but I’m still struggling to learn names and I’m sure I won’t see them after it gets too dark in the evenings to keep playing. The job hunt is going in waves of hope and frustration. My options are limited because I’m stuck with my lease and because my desired industry is ridiculously competitive. All I can do is treat life like a math problem, and as long as I can pay rent, it’s going to be ok, even if it drains all my savings. The world has never seemed so big before, like I know where I want to be but I have no idea the path to get there. The toughest part is preparing myself mentally to take advantage of an opportunity when I find it. All my friends from college are settled into their jobs, living with their good friends and significant others, and going through the transition rather seamlessly. I wish I knew other people who were going through something similar. I want to know I’m not a failure. It says something to me that writing this paragraph has been the most liberating thing I’ve done in weeks. I feel myself getting close to tears as I write this. I want to fast-forward to a point where everything feels better, but I know that with my present lack of conviction, I’m delaying that feeling. I wish I was stronger in this moment. -Anonymous, 22 years old, unemployed
I think my post doc at my lab put it perfectly: this is one hell of a traumatic experience. I have days where I think everything will work out just fine, and then there are the days where I’m at the lowest of lows, convinced that despite holding a degree from such a prestigious university, I’m a failure at life. That’s why no one will hire me right? But knowing that I’m not the only one in this situation helps me get out of that rut. It’s kind of shitty, but it’ll come to an end at some point. Right? – ST, 22 years old, #unemployed
I want to be an undergrad again so badly … and that is the most dangerous thing I can tell myself right now. -YS, 21 years old
Working towards your dreams is hard, figuring out what your dreams are is harder. Turns out, graduation provides no clarity on the latter. -Anonymous, 21 years old, intern
I wish I knew that there would be a lot of crying after college, but it isn’t just me. I wish someone told me how to tell the difference between challenges that can be overcome with time, and true Unhappiness that signifies a need for a real change. The transition is really tough, but it also has shown me the depth of my friendship with certain people. I have always known that they are the best people on this planet, but the transition has been an opportunity for them to truly shine and be a source of optimism and strength for me. -Anonymous, 22 years old, employed
… And others find it hard to make friends
I moved overseas and making friends without the structure of a school/dorm/clubs etc is damn hard! -Noah Efron, 22 years old, Quantum KDB
How do I meet new friends? -Anonymous
But for some, the post-grad transition has been going well
So far the post-grad transition seems to be going well. My biggest piece of advice to others is, “You can’t really plan for anything in life, but if you don’t have a plan, you’ll get no where.” -M, lab manager
Life is good. Get a plan, stick with it. Don’t wobble around being like “Blaaah, I’m a twenty something, I don’t know what to do, I will be a hipster.” -Anonymous, 23 years old, grad student
[Post-grad is] pretty good, love living in the city, and found a great group of roommates and friends to live and learn with! Job is prestigious and decently-paying, while leaving me with enough time to have fun and do other things. Best piece of advice, being only two years out, is to be adventurous and do the things you’ve always wanted to do, but were too afraid or cautious to do. -HT, 23 years old, analyst
And if it’s not going perfectly, it’s at least okay
Scared, afraid but hopeful at the same time. I don’t have a job but somehow I know that everything is going to be okay. -Anonymous, 21 years old, unemployed
Making money is nice. I can actually buy things that I want! But…having so much less free time means I don’t have as much time to actually use the money on things that are worthwhile. I don’t miss the crazy assignments/essays/projects/labs of school. I don’t miss not worrying about grades. But I miss being around brilliant people … I miss liberal people. I don’t like being the only “progressive” out of my post-college friends. I miss talking about feminism (especially as a guy). I wish that my friends wouldn’t dismiss race or sexuality (especially those friends who are PoC and non-heterosexual). What do I wish I knew when I first started out? Actually though, get a student credit card (or another basic one) early. -Anonymous, 23 years old, legal assistant
The post-grad transition has been surprisingly smooth. The summer before I finished my last year in school, I worked at this biotech company. My boss apparently took a liking to me because he emailed me when I was abroad my final semester offering me full-time work when I got back. So that’s what I’m doing right now. I sit in an office, behind a computer, mindlessly typing on spreadsheets while struggling to stay awake. I can’t say I like it, but I am grateful that I didn’t have to look for work. I’m comfortable with my situation right now. I was in Thailand while abroad, and fell in love with the region. I want to go back to Asia next year, maybe teach English, maybe get involved with a company that works with marginalized groups, and live there for a bit. My job is somewhat boring, but stable, and I feel like I’m just waiting for the next thing to happen. That might be Asia. Or maybe I stumble onto something else between now and then. Knowing me, whatever it is, it’ll be exciting, and it’ll be fun. And I’m grateful I got to stay in Berkeley, because I love the intellectual curiosity that people here possess. I guess until the next thing in my life occurs, I’ll just be here in my office, typing, waiting (I’m literally typing this at work right now). -Jonathan Luna, 23 years old, biotech
I see everything as an extension of my experience, and everything builds upon who I became when I was at Cal. Although all my friends on the East Coast know me as the Berkeley girl … -Ali Arman, 22 years old, graduate student
It’s been good and bad. While reporting I get doors slammed in my face. My colleagues cut me off. One suggested that I was sexist, then asked three students if they grew up together, only because they were standing right next to each other and looked Asian. The micro-aggressions. The ignorance. No one takes a young person seriously. After 13 years of school I am barely starting to look to myself for answers. -Josh Escobar, 23 years old, grad student
Finally, here’s what nuggets of advice your fellow twenty-somethings had to share:
1. Everyone has problems. Everyone. Some people are just better at dealing with it than others. Keep that in mind when dealing with people throughout your day and it will make you nicer and happier
2.The wisest person that I ever met after graduating was a recovering drug addict that worked in my office. He kept a Shakespeare quote on his wall, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Truer words have never been spoken. Your post-grad life is what you make of it. You can’t control the situations that you’re in but you can control how you react. -Anonymous
Post-grad is filled with growth (and growing pains)- the amount of personal growth is tremendous once you are released into the world and have to ask yourself tough questions.
Be comfortable with the fact that you do not know what you want to do (if you are like majority of people) right away. Many people are in your shoes. With a world of possibilities, you can either shrink and be scared, or think of it as an exciting playground to explore. It is extremely easy to become complacent. In a structured school setting, success and failure is defined via a grading scale. For most, this external, constant scale slaps people with a harsh dose of reality when they slack off. Once out of school however, you set your own hustle / success scale. Because of that, it is easy to keep on letting your standards fall and become complacent with a job that you know isn’t fulfilling you completely or is aligned with your true vision, because it is simply easier to be lazy and fuck around.
Don’t try to think yourself to clarity in terms of what your true passion or job is; the true answer will come when you actually take action, try something you think is the best option, and learn / take it from there. As Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking backwards, so just trust your gut and take it from there. -CL, 24 years old, business
Post-grad is so far bewildering and exhilarating. What I wish I had known: you don’t lose anything by calling out bullshit and by walking away. It’s liberating, and it saves oceans of wasted time. Listen to your instincts. -Meg Elison, a thousand years old, freelance author/editor/ghost writer/nanny/hire me
There are going to be a lot of people telling you how to be an adult. They will tell you how you should act, how you should speak, how you should dress, how you should cook, how you should spend your free time, and generally how you should live. Oftentimes this advice is wrong, and sometimes it is correct. However, even when you know it is correct, and recognize that perhaps you should be doing all of the things people tell you, forcing yourself to do it isn’t going to work. You can’t pretend to be someone you’re not. You WILL become an adult, but you will become your own kind of adult, and it is going to take time. One day, you will wake up, and you will be ready to change. That change will be authentic, because it will come from within you. When it comes, embrace it, but in the meantime stop stressing. Live your life, and don’t let anyone, even the well-meaning, tell you what you should be. -AM, 21 years old, looking for work
1. It’s just a stupid job. Don’t worry too much about it. Find something else that makes your life meaningful, because trying to find life’s meaning in your paycheck is like staring at the bottom of an empty glass.
2. Drugs and alcohol are for kids. I say that tongue in cheek. Basically, it’s total bullshit and no one is made the better for them. But don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself.
3. Keep friendships alive by talking about real things. If you did well, good for you. But if you fucked up hard, that’s probably a better story to share, one that ears may need more than the former.
4. I’m not nearly as afraid of as many things as I used to be. That works out strangely: fear is fed by confronting the unknown. The older you get, the more unknown there is. Maybe one should be more afraid. But you’re not. As for myself, I have kept myself fed since I was 17 years old, relying at times on the kindness of strangers, but most especially from hard work. You can’t spend it all on being afraid, because that part comes free, anyways. -Doug Taylor, 33 years old, law school hopeful