Friday, June 28, 2013

Learning to Love Life After College

Loving life after college, is that even possible?

My friends who recently graduated are quick to ask me: "So do you like life after college?",  "Do you ever miss being in college?"  And I can honestly say that yes I do like my life post-college and no I don't miss being in college.  Let me repeat.  I really, really like being a college graduate.

But don't take this as meaning that my transition into my 'new' life was seamless.  Last year I postponed my post-grad blues by traveling for the summer, but upon my return (and seeing my younger friends still in college) I had quite the case of blues.  I was mourning my time in college being over and feeling like I didn't even know who I was anymore.  For all of my young life I had been able to define myself as a student.  As a college graduate I couldn't introduce myself as 'an elementary education major,' but I wasn't quite a teacher who was I?
A few months ago I wrote a post about surviving life after college, and I can honestly say that it is more than possible to not only survive but thrive in your new life after college.  If you're having a hard time adjusting to this huge change, here are some awesome reasons I've found from my first year after graduation of why you should start loving your life after college:

You're Beginning to Define the Real You

You're no longer a student or an aspiring author/nurse/doctor/psychologist/engineer/teacher.  Instead you are becoming that author, nurse, or teacher.  You are constantly defining yourself with every decision and opportunity you take, and how you deal with the experiences you are dealt.  Maybe you don't have your dream job yet, but what are you doing to work towards that goal?  Great opportunities and experiences may not always be job opportunities and your job does not define you.  Consider: volunteering, interning, taking courses, picking up a new hobby, learning something new, travel.  When it comes down to it do you want to be defined as the person sitting at home on the couch, or putting themselves out there and making the best out of your new life?

I may not have my dream teaching job, but I haven't let it get me down.  Instead I found a way to gain some kind of experience in my field networking and build connections.  Now I'll even be moving abroad to experience and learn about another culture (lucky for me it's teaching English and is still in my chosen field of education!).  So while I may not have the title of 'teacher' to define me, I'm finding that I've had the freedom post-college to be who I really want to be.

You Can Do What Interests You

I may work seemingly non-stop, but I've found that outside of college I still have way more free time to pursue what interests me.  No one is telling me I need to squeeze in extra courses to graduate on time, I don't have to write papers, take exams, or do excessive amounts of homework.  Instead, I can learn and do what I want to.  When I was in college I can't remember the last time I was able to read something just for my enjoyment, usually it would have to wait for one of my vacation periods.  Now I can finally catch up on my reading list (subsequently full of books and novels on/about Spain), work on my knitting skills, improve my foreign language proficiency, and pursue many of the things that I just never had time for in college.


Now I don't pretend that I have complete independence at the moment, but definitely more than in college.  I do live at home with my mom, but I must help clean more than just my own dorm space, help cook family meals, take care of my finances, etc. and I love it all.  I love cooking my own food and have become a much better cook because of it.  I can whip up my own sauces, can make things from scratch, and know how to balance healthy meals.  Also, taking care of my student loans on my own has given me a sense of independence.  Keeping track of payments and making sure they're always paid on time has really been empowering, letting me know that yes I can do it myself.

Many recent college graduates may be forced to move back home with their families, but it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your independence.  If you find yourself in this situation talk with your family.  Discuss the boundaries you all want and what you each need from each other.  As I plan to move abroad in the Fall I definitely feel more prepared coming with a year out of college under my belt, even if I was living at home.

I Finally Have Some Money (keyword. some.)

I'm definitely not rich (haha rich, that's a joke right?), but working full-time and not having to pay all those college fees anymore means for once I actually have some money.  Granted it's all going to me being in Spain next year...but at least I have it, right?  The point is that even if you have to work multiple (often poorly paying) part-time jobs you can still make ends meet.  If you're like most college graduates, you won't be wealthy straight out of the gate, but once you're out of college and working full time you absolutely can work your way up to financial stability.  It all depends on how willing you are to work your butt off, if you have a budget that works for your life and needs, and if you know the ins and outs of your student loans/debt.  Even if your dream also happens to be working abroad and traveling the world (which can be affordable to all!).

My Tips for Loving Your Life After College (From Experience):

Spend Time With Friends

College friends, high school friends, new friends.  It doesn't matter.  You don't have to sacrifice a social life to be an 'adult.'  Keep in mind though that: no not all of your friends will stay when you move onto this next stage of your life and yes it's much harder to make friends out of college.  Instead you will find out who's worth keeping in your life; maybe you won't have tons of friends but you'll keep the handful that matters.  And while it may be more difficult to make new friends, it's not impossible.  Put yourself out there, get involved, and try knew experiences where you can meet potential new friends.

Get Involved

Always a beautiful night at WaterFire,
If you're feeling lonely in your new life get involved in your community and organizations that you feel passionate about.  When your job has group activities for bonding try to go for the experience.  If that's not your thing or you don't work with employees your own age, research how you can get involved through community groups or volunteering.  I volunteer with WaterFire Providence because keeping the arts alive is something I feel passionate about.  Getting involved in something interesting/important to you can: help make your life rewarding, help make networking connections, look great on resumes, and help you in your quest to build new friendships.

Learn Something New

Improved my knitting and taught myself to crochet.
Just because you are done with college doesn't mean you should stop learning!  Visit your local library and browse the stacks for something that has always interested you.  Want to learn a new language?  Look at what resources you can find to become bilingual, or even multilingual!  Attend public lectures at your local university, see what community courses you can take, pick up a hobby, etc.  If you're looking to broaden your horizons and continue enriching your life, then the possibilities are endless.

Fit in Exercise

What's a better workout than sledding?
Always try to make time for exercise in your life.  Try to create a regular workout routine because keeping physically active in the long run will make you healthier and happier.  I personally find it easier to workout right when I get out of work in the evening because I'm much more motivated when I'm already out of my house and moving.  What has also helped me establish a routine has been taking a scheduled exercise class where I'm expected on a weekly basis.  Making physical activity a regular part of my life has not only made me happy and healthy, but in the best shape I've ever been.  There's always a way to sneak physical activity into your routine, whether it be parking further away and taking the stairs or hitting up the gym.

Learn How to Cook Healthy Meals

Delicious home-cooked
Spanish food

This is something I feel very strongly about, because not only will learning how to cook save you so much money, but knowing how to cook healthy, well-balanced meals is an invaluable skill that you will use for the rest of your life.  Thanks to the internet there are so many free resources at your fingertips you can use to get creative with recipes and cater to the tastes you prefer.  Your body, taste buds, and health will all thank you for learning how to make some delicious wholesome home-cooked meals.  (Not to mention it's a great way to impress your friends and family!)

Chocolate cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting from scratch...
ok this isn't that healthy, but it's delicious!

Live it Up-Always Look to Expand Your Horizons

Never think that just because you graduated college that your life is over.  No matter what your age, it's never too late to expand your horizons and live your life to the fullest.  If you're truly unsatisfied with your life, don't settle.  If you want something different, make that change.  Life is short and it's not worth wasting it being unhappy.  My grandmother always told me: "When one door closes, another opens."  College may be over, but you have this new wonderful door opening up to the rest of your life.  It all depends on what you do when you step outside.

How have you learned to love your life after college?  What advice do you have for new graduates?

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