Life After College: Living Up to the Expectations?
by Cathryn Sloane | University of Iowa
I actually made it. Class of 2012 – we made it! We actually figured out the right way to put those awkward caps on, sat through the ceremony, shook an important person’s hand and endured the paparazzi (a.k.a. our families with cameras).
It all kind of seemed like a myth throughout that final semester, that we would actually be done with college and become post-grads. But here we are: after all the alarms we set, all the notecards we made, all the textbooks we paid for and didn’t read, all the printer paper we used, and all the scantrons we filled out, we have completed and graduated college.
It didn’t feel real to me until the day I officially moved out of my apartment. Nothing hit me when I left my last class the week before. Nothing hit me when I said goodbye to my friends. Nothing even really hit me when I walked across that stage as my name was called. But let’s be real – I’ve never enjoyed classes, so there was nothing I was going to miss there. The friends who truly matter to me, I knew I was going to see again. And I’m sorry, but when you’re walking across a stage and down a set of rickety stairs in front of an arena full of people – while wearing heels, might I add – your mind cannot focus on anything else.
However, seeing my room completely empty, that hit me hard. I had done this plenty of other times before returning home for summer breaks, of course, but this time I knew I wasn’t moving back. I was leaving my independence and had no idea when I’d regain it.
That was certainly a dramatic high point for me, but being almost three weeks into my new post-grad life at home, I’m happy to say things aren’t as depressing as I thought they would be. I mean, yes, I am thousands of dollars in debt and my main income is the tips I make waiting tables. But God gave us a wonderful, wonderful gift and that is called the six-month grace period. So thankfully, I’ve got a good amount of time to save up my cash before I have to write it all away to the government.
In the meantime, though, I’ve realized that this is probably the one time in my life when I’ll have no deadlines, which can be a very helpful thing. And I don’t mean that in an Eric Matthews, sit on the couch all day eating Coco Puffs while watching murder mysteries kind of way; I mean I am able to dedicate every day to taking steps toward pointing my life in the direction I want it to go without being bombarded by exams and due dates for research papers. This is possibly the most freedom I’ll ever have, and I’d be an idiot if I didn’t take full advantage of it.
It’s interesting when I take a look at what all my friends and peers are doing at this time with this freedom. Well, first off, some are lucky enough to have already been hired for a full-time job – and yes, those people all graduated somewhere in the school of business.
Everybody else, who are fellow liberal arts & science-ers like myself, are doing a number of things. Many are living at home, emailing out multiple resumés and requests for informational interviews. Some are applying to grad schools, unsure if that’s what they really want to do or if they’re just avoiding the scary abyss of unemployment. Some are taking trips and learning to do new things. And some are just excited to be working a part-time job while they enjoy the perks of being home.
I would say I’m a mix of all of the above. I am constantly networking and filling out applications, but not without taking some time to have fun and experience the world around me. I’m toying with the idea of various grad schools and writing programs, and honestly, I do enjoy my current restaurant job. It’s all about making the most of what we have while working toward our goals.
The main idea that all of us recent grads must not lose sight of is what we really want in life and how we are going to get it. Now is the time to make those moves and the way to do that is by finding the right balance between bettering ourselves professionally and bettering ourselves personally. I know what I want to do, I’m going after it, and I’m taking it one day at a time.Cathryn Sloane is a '12 graduate from The University of Iowa with a B.A. in English and a concentration in Creative Nonfiction Writing. She hails from St. Louis, Missouri and has also written for USA TODAY College.