So I’ve been done with school for about three months now. Its been quite an interesting experience, one that no one ever really talked to me about and yet I wish someone had.
There have been some great upsides. First, I have discovered that I am a natural morning person. Well, once I actually get out of bed and based on whether I actually slept well last night. I wake up and feel alive and in tune with the world. If I walk/exercise/yoga after getting up, this amplifies the feeling.
In fact, being able to have time to walk and move and exercise during my day has been great. In school, I normally walked about 3 miles a day. Now, between my commute to work and my side-job of walking dogs I find that I am actually moving about five miles a day (though sometimes this number gets as high as 13 miles when I walk a lot of dogs on the weekend). And it makes me feel great. Like really great and I kind of kick myself for not moving more when I was in school. I probably would have been a lot less stressed.
I’ve been able to consume books, particularly audiobooks, at a rapid rate. I’ve also had time to actually keep on top of current events and news of the day. I’ve been able to keep up and read my writing/book websites.
I’m significantly less stressed, my R.A. has been incredibly manageable and most of my aches and flares have been food related.
I’ve been able to learn about myself and who I physically am.
But there are also a lot of things that have been difficult.
Graduating means moving away from your support network and your people, often to a new city or place and a new job. It’s a lot of new. As someone who likes the comfort of routine and stability, its been really hard. Cities mean a lot of people, but it also can be incredibly hard to connect with people. It can be really easy to feel and be lonely.
And while there is no longer the time commitment of classes and homework, work takes up 1/3 of the time in your day, not including commute time and the time needed to get ready for the day. In the end, I have probably about 3-4 hours once I get home before its time for me to go to bed and start over. This leaves not a whole lot of time for me and socialization and my side-job. In some ways, I feel like I have even less time than I did when I was taking a full course load and working. It feels like I am slowly becoming my work and my work is becoming me.
And on the topic of work, I also feel completely disoriented in terms of what I want to do with my life. There are infinitely more options out there than I could have ever dreamed of, and I wish I had been more proactive in trying to experience them during my time in undergrad through internships. It’s caused me to reassess my skills and interests. I know that I still want to go to grad school and that I would still like to teach college someday.
The quarter-life crisis is, in fact, a thing whether you want to believe it or not. I mean it does logically make sense that after almost 20 years in a routine of school that an abrupt change and thrust into the actual working world would cause someone to question everything they think, know, and want. Our lives up until this point have been so defined by the light at the end of the educational tunnel that once we get there, what is there to hold onto and orient us?
This is not to mention the brutal banality of the unpaid internship and ungratifying entry-level grunt work. You may think it sounds whiny, but there is a serious disrespect and exploitation of interns and low-level workers. Its a lot of discouraging experiences and frustrations that make me wonder “is this how it is going to be for the rest of my life”? A lot of the issues that I have had personally in the past couple of months have boiled down to issues of communication, project/personnel management, and respect. It’s been difficult to actually do anything about these issues because I am a low-level intern and I am at a VERY hierarchy-based organization. But it’s been very eye-opening in terms of what I am going to be looking for moving forward.
Also, being post-grad has made me hate money. A lot. Part of this is a bit of resentment at the fact I am an unpaid intern. Thankfully my parents have been generous in helping me to offset some of my housing costs to be able to take this internship. But even with that, I’m broke as hell. I have just enough money in my checking account to pay this month’s housing costs (I’m simply waiting for the check to be cashed) and $12 for my dinner on Saturday. I have to have a side-job in order to afford groceries and to save for my last month of housing costs. It’s stressful. I love my side job (walking dogs) but at the same time resent the fact I have to be chained to this side job jumping on any and every walk request so I’m making enough money. It’s stressful and its hard not to find yourself fixating on it. Not to mention when my student loan payments start coming due in 3 months, according to my exit counseling I should be making $40,000 a year (without any other cost of living expenses) so that my loans aren’t a burden. How is one not supposed to scream? And if you’re one of the people moving to a new city for a new job into a new apartment…the costs add up. It makes a lot of sense why people are so obsessed with how much their jobs are going to pay them because economic stability and quality of life hinge on it.
Then there’s grad school. I still have no idea if I am going, if I am going to be able to afford to go, and where I’d go. It’s difficult because this is also the time when I should be applying for jobs. It’s just another layer of complexity that adds on stress. And if I don’t get in, what do I apply for next year? As all of the possibilities of the world yawn open before me, how am I going to be able to narrow down my likes and options into a program that I can get into?
I just wish that it was normal to talk about the transition from college to the rest of your life. It’s a huge step and I was so not mentally or emotionally prepared for any of it. I’ve been able to find other friends to whom I can talk to but even so right now I am going it alone. It’s allowed me to learn a lot about myself but at the same time its been hard to work through all of it. I just wish as a culture we would stop making things seem ‘easier’ than they are so that we could just be honest and help each other. It would make everything so much easier