By Matt Haemmerle
Graduating from college has presented me with a number of challenges, all of which have been difficult but not impossible to manage. My first challenge was coming home from school and sharing a bedroom with my youngest brother. After choosing to attend the University solely because it is hundreds of miles away from my diabolical brother, a twist of fate brought me back to the bottom bunk where I had sworn four years earlier that I would never return.
In reality, going back to the parents wasn’t so bad, but it did feel like I was taking steps backward, and that was difficult. Whether a college graduate is waiting to hear back about a job or is simply not yet sure what he or she wants to do, returning home can be very frustrating. College moves fast and students often graduate hoping to build off of that momentum only to find that their dream job requires waiting a little bit longer. Figuring out what you want to do may require some exploring, and finding a job that matches your expectations can be a long and discouraging process.
Life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy, but we all inevitably have to do things we don’t want. So rather than “settling” for a job, view any undesirable work or lack thereof as a temporary condition. Accept that getting to where you want to be will take patience, persistent focus and maybe even a few risks.
Patience is the game I am playing right now. However, I have been fortunate enough to find an interesting job that keeps me busy. Whether you have a job or not, the important thing is that you are doing something that adds value to your personal story—the skills, events, experiences and work that define you. If you can’t get your dream job right away, find a job where you will learn something beneficial. And if you still aren’t being challenged enough, be proactive and seek out new experiences, join a new organization, learn a new language—just do something to improve yourself.
While I recognize that my current job provides value to my personal story, I also understand that it only represents one short chapter. Learning how to cope with a sedentary desk job has been a struggle for me. Pleasant distractions such as G-chat, fantasy football and online newspapers have made my solitary confinement tolerable. What makes a not-ideal situation most manageable, however, is an individual’s state of mind.
Work hard and do what you do well, but if you know that you want something else then don’t let yourself get comfortable. Keep reaching, stay open to new opportunities and position yourself to meet your goals and expectations.
Aside from work, post-graduate life presents a number of other challenges. I am confronted with the challenge of living on a tight budget every time I step inside the grocery store. I have been blessed with a catabolic metabolism that allows me to eat enormous amounts of food without ever gaining weight. Unfortunately, my stomach is twice the size of my salary, and I have never experienced such agonizing trips to the grocery store. I have painfully had to forsake countless food products at the register and return them to their rightful aisle. The good part is I have also learned that you don’t need much to live.
Being a minimalist is not something new for me. When I lived in Florida, hurricane evacuations forced me to take only what I could fit in a cardboard box. The first few years after college may require graduates to live more simply, but it can be incredibly rewarding. The ability to detach oneself from unnecessary personal possessions and accumulated waste not only makes moving easier, but it can also be a liberating experience that alters one’s whole outlook on life.
Another obstacle I experienced after graduation was the need to reestablish my social life. You will never again be in an environment like the University where it is so easy to meet people and establish enduring friendships, but that doesn’t mean you will never regain the social life you had in college. For one, I think it is important to redefine what a relationship is. For instance, just because somebody is older doesn’t mean they can’t become a good friend. I’ve met some pretty cool people who are over the age of 40.
And most importantly, those students who haven’t already discovered this will learn that there is a big difference between your “friends” and your “best friends.” Your friends are the people who have a specific time and place in your life. They are there for you to enjoy their company, and after they leave, you appreciate the time you shared together. But your best friends are the few people who are always there. You can pick up talking to them after not seeing each other for two years and it’s like you were never even apart.
If you can count the number of best friends you have on just one hand, then you are doing pretty well.