Graduate of Life

You may grow a new skin every seven years, but it seems like every four years, you start a new life. Four years of high school, then four years of college.

As of today, it’s been four years since I graduated from college. I guess that means that I’m no longer a…senior in life, I guess. But there will be no big changes. I’m not moving, I’m not heading to school, I’m not starting a new job. Life will just go on as usual.

But four years ago, all I could see was my old life ending. I’d been up all night with my friends, drinking the leftover alcohol and feeling more sad than nostalgic—friendships and relationships had changed so much over the course of college, and things, I thought, were only going to get worse. In the car with my family after the graduation, I kept falling asleep and then waking up in tears.

Life after college was really hard for awhile, for reasons I’m still not comfortable writing about on a public blog. But it did get easier. If I could, this is what I’d go back in time and tell myself on May 22, 2006:

-The first year out of college will be the most difficult year of your life. There will be a lot of tears and worries and stress-induced illness. But it won’t last forever. When you look back on it, you won’t know how you ever got through it, but you did. Like Chumbawumba, you’ll get knocked down, but you’ll get up again.

-You will be amazingly lucky in your housing situations. No bipolar roommates who throw things at you like in college. Christina will save what’s left of your sanity during that awful first year. You won’t have sewage leaks or flooded basements like some of your friends, either—in fact, both of your apartments will be fantastic.

-Right now you have it in your head that friendships don’t happen after college. Maybe it’s because you never made close friends at any of your previous jobs or because you remember Koren Zailckas writing about how cliquey and mean the girls at her first job out of college were in her book Smashed, but you’ll be totally unprepared for the friends you’ll make once college ends. Colleagues, fellow chorus members, and friends of friends will all become parts of your life. And you won’t just make friends, you’ll make close friends, the kinds who are always fun to be around but also support you and help you through difficult times. Like the Beatles, you’ll get by with a little help from your friends.

-Drama and cliquey-ness never really end (hell, they even happen in retirement homes), but they do get considerably better once you’re out of college. You’ve managed to reconnect with some friends you drifted apart from in college. In college, there was a friend-of-a-friend who disliked you to the point where she wouldn’t say hi back if you said hi to her and left a seat between you and her when you went with a group of people to a movie theater. A few years later, you’ll see her at a party and not only will she say hi to you first and ask where you live and what you’re up to, but you’ll actually have some nice conversations with her through the night. In college, you sometimes felt like everyone would eventually desert you or stab you in the back, but in life, you’re becoming more and more convinced that most people are good.

-Surprisingly, one of the things that will help convince you of that is work. While work will cause you some major headaches at times, the people you meet will by and large be fabulous. (Exceptions include that one girl who said, “Cancer!” in a cough after hearing you and another co-worker discuss your love for Diet Coke.) Pop culture has convinced you that cubicle jobs suck out your soul, that your boss will be a tyrant, and that coworkers will be the bane of your existence, but nothing could be further from the truth. Some of your happiest memories from the past four years have been work-related.

-You’ll always worry about money, but you’ll discover that however little you have, you’re pretty good at managing it.

-I wish I had better news for you regarding your love life, but I don’t. You’ve still never been in love or dated the same guy for more than a couple of months. You are out there dating, but not much luck so far. At least most of your friends are still single, too, and you’re mentally healthier than you were in college. Like Snow White, someday your prince will come. (Okay, feel free to roll your eyes at that one.)

-You still won’t quite feel like an adult in four years, and you still see “grown-ups” as a group separate from yourself. You don’t feel like that quite as much as you did right out of college, though. Also, college students annoy the hell out of you now.

-You’ve seen a lot more of Boston and its surrounding areas now that you don’t view it in collegiate terms. You mention Teele Square and the Fort Point Channel in conversation now when you didn’t even know what those areas were four years ago. You’ll spend the first couple of years out of school living within feet of your college, allowing yourself to retain some of the life you loved, but moving to Davis Square will prove to be a very good decision and a change of scenery that will suit you well.

-You’ll talk a lot about how much you miss college for the first couple of years. At a Christmas party that first year, you and your friends will be exhausted from work and will spend the whole night in your friends’ tiny basement apartment sounding like the Chris Farley Show from SNL: “Hey, remember when we did (fun thing) in college? That was great.” A year out of college, you’ll write this blog entry. But before you even realize it, you won’t say things like that anymore. You did love college and you do miss your friends, your classes, and the general college atmosphere, and you’ll buy a BC Snuggie to remind yourself of that, but after awhile you’ll start to realize how much you love your life right now. There are ways you’d like it to improve, but as you finish your fourth year of life, life looks pretty damn good.

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