The first post-grad year of anyone’s life is a weird time. If you’re anything like me, you’re equal parts way too hard on yourself about having your entire career path and future mapped out, and somehow also trying to take it easy and remind yourself at every turn that you only just graduated, and it is okay to not have everything figured out yet. I hop back and forth between these two feelings sometimes multiple times per day still — and I’m almost a full year post-grad. It is a wild journey for sure.
And even in just the nine months since I’ve graduated, I’ve noticed a lot of changes — good and bad — that have already taken place. There are some things happening faster than I expected, and some things that just aren’t picking up even though my projected timeline would have put me a lot further ahead in certain areas than I actually am as it stands right now. And aside from all the big stuff (like career timelines, big personal goals, my financial life, my relationship, etc.) there are even weird small things I’ve noticed. A lot of my hobbies, for example, have changed, and things that I loved when I was in school are things I don’t care at all for anymore. For example, I used to love going out (in general — didn’t have to be to a bar or anything ~fun~, but just getting out of the house to go even to the grocery store got me jazzed) and lately I feel like I am so much happier to spend time puttering around my home — so much so that I’ve considered ordering grocery delivery (but have never actually followed through). TV shows that I once loved — Sex and the City, for example — give me anxious hives now, and I don’t really know why. (Ok, I do know why — how could I let myself watch and admire a show for so long that essentially was all about being financially irresponsible and treating everyone in your life like shit? What an awful moral compass to live by.) Another weird thing is that a hobby I always loved — following fashion, creating outfits, and shopping — has come to a weird halt. I still like to look at clothes, but I have pretty much no desire to buy them or even wear anything elaborate. I feel so laser-focused on other things in my life at the moment that I don’t really care too much how ~chic~ my top looks with my jeans, as long as they’re both practical and comfortable. Ugh — that sounds so boring coming from my mouth. I don’t think this necessarily means that I’ve given up on hobbies or things I loved — it just means that my current life doesn’t really support that hobby, and I’m totally content that way for now. When you make big leaps like moving, graduating, or starting new jobs and career paths, it is bound to trickle down and affect you even in smaller areas of your life. That’s what this whole “post-grad” thing is all about, I guess: figuring out who you are going to be and what your life is going to look like now that you’ve finished the bulk of your “required learning”.
I decided to reach out to a bunch of people (some of whom graduated with me last May) to see how they’re feeling nearly one year deep into post-grad life, and to find out what changes they’ve already noticed. Here is what they had to say:
1. “Contrary to what my professors (and even as far back as high school teachers) tried to have me believe, the ‘real world’ is genuinely a lot easier than school, in my opinion. I guess it depends on how you look at it, and what you believe to be difficult versus easy. But the expectations that 4-6 teachers or professors have for you are a lot more than your boss or supervisor — yes, even in your big important career job — will ever have for you. I actually think it is kind of messed up that students go through high school being made anxious by teachers who say ‘sorry kid, you have to do 32 hours of homework this week on top of your 30 hours of school because your college professors will expect this from you!’ and your professors definitely don’t expect that of you. Then your professors are like ‘you know, if you’re two minutes late for class one day you’re kicked out and lose points off your final grade in this class because in the real world that’s how it is!’ but IRL a boss would never do that. They’d just be like ‘oh yeah there was traffic, try not to be late again’. There is a weird abusive culture in school that unravels once you’re fully done with it, in my opinion.” — Sam
2. “The things I want out of my career (and my life in general) are changing already, less than a year out. I have been in a serious relationship and my partner and I planned on marrying/really focusing a lot on our future as a couple post-grad, and we’re already noticing that life will be so difficult if we try to settle right now, and we both personally feel like we want to be more established in our career fields before we put mental energy (and money) into things like buying a house or starting a family. The fact that I want to do these things and do them with him hasn’t changed, but my timeline certainly has. Before graduation, I saw us married with kids by 25 — now we are on a totally different timeline.” — Elle
3. “Agreed that I don’t wear 90% of my clothes anymore. I felt like my university was a fashion show, and my desk job is totally fine to wear the same blouse-and-tapered-pants combo every day. I don’t mean that in a sad boring way though, it is really something I’m fine with, but I am like ‘wow, I can definitely toss at least 57 different Forever 21 tops and dresses during my spring cleaning this year!’” — Remi
4. “I simultaneously feel like I have all the time in the world and no time at all for myself. When I was a student, I felt like my time wasn’t mine — it was theirs. School never felt like it was for me because it seemed like my professors made it all about what we, the students, were doing for them. It is weird, but I’m sure a lot of students will agree with me. The level of personal satisfaction I got after a day of classes, essays, tests, handing in projects, etc. doesn’t even touch the satisfaction I get after a full day of going to work and doing my job well.” — Daniela
5. “I’m surprised at how easily things fell into place, because I know that doesn’t happen for everyone. Not trying to brag, but I told myself in the months approaching graduation what I’d like to accomplish in the first year or so, and I hit all of those milestones exactly as planned, which I truly wasn’t expecting.” — Rachel
6. “A lot has changed already. I graduated less than a year ago knowing exactly what I wanted to do with a whole plan of attack to accomplish that, and I’ve switched my career (and personal) aspirations almost entirely. I want to go back to school now and I’m really disappointed I didn’t have this revelation like, two years ago — that would have saved me lots of time and money.” — Brendan
7 “This is cliche and I know people say this a lot, but I’ve really learned to not try and live my life based on any arbitrary timeline. I graduated later than most people do because I only was a part-time student throughout the duration of my college years, so it took me almost double the time to complete (while I worked full-time on the side). I earned full-time money for all of those years, so people in my life expect me to have a decent savings, possibly a down payment for a home — but no, that money all went to school, because that was why I was doing it all that way. Now I’m 26 and I have a degree, I have an entry level job that is related to what I want but isn’t at all what I want, I live in an apartment with roommates and probably will for quite a bit longer while I save up. I’m not going to have that ‘marry by 25, buy a house at 27, have kids by 30’ life that you kind of expect when you’re younger and projecting what your future may look like.” — Jake
8. “I’m surprised at how quick things happen in the ‘real world’ — it felt like school dragged on forever. Now it is like, want a new job? Apply! Hear back in two weeks! Interview, get an offer, quit your job and have a whole new life! Meet a neat guy at a club? He’ll propose six months later! Now you’re engaged, new job and career path, and you only graduated college less than a year ago! It feels like things just move faster here. When you’re in school, every guy you date is on like a 15-year plan with you. If you ask about the future he’s like ‘ehhhhhhhhh maybe we can discuss it in 10 years.’ But post-grad it seems like everyone is scrambling to like change their life and settle down everywhere I look.” — Sky
9. “I’ve noticed that I’m just tired. And I don’t work any harder than like, anyone else. I have a 40 hour/week desk job, and sure, sometimes that means 45 hours, but sometimes it also means 35 depending on the week. It is challenging but rewarding, and I genuinely enjoy it. But jumping from being a student who attends a few hours of classes per day and does some homework to someone who has to be up at 7am and at their desk by 9 every day with no end in sight just kind of wears on you when you’re first getting used to it, I think.” –Aaron
10. “I just changed in personality. I was very outgoing and involved on campus as a student, then when I started a corporate job I realized that in this environment, I just feel more comfortable kind of keeping to myself. I’m not intimidated by anyone and I enjoy my job and get on well with everyone there, but I just feel more comfortable taking the role of a quiet, responsible employee who does what she needs to and keeps to herself. I used to have this feeling of wanting to be the center of attention and I absolutely don’t have that anymore. I don’t think it is bad; I think I’ve just grown up a bit and value doing my work and then going home to my personal life more than trying to make everything like a social event.” — Kimmy
11. “It is a weird observation, but a lot of little things changed since I began life ‘on my own’ and one of the most noticeable is the foods that I eat. I feel like I have a totally different diet than I did as a student, probably due sort of to the fact that I had a dining hall at my fingertips as a student who lived on-campus at my university (which is the only place I had ever lived besides my parents’ house at that point). I moved out immediately after graduation into my own apartment (which I was lucky to do because I know that isn’t the reality for everyone) and then I was like, crap — how do people grocery shop? How do they feed themselves? I’m on a much more steady diet of cereal and pasta and frozen meals than I was as a student with lots of random variety offered to me.” — Blake
12. “I was very into ~aesthetics~ in college and decorated my life (from my bedroom to my outfits) very carefully. Then I moved into my own place and started my first career-job and was like ‘All furniture is utilitarian! The ugly Craigslist couch will do! Thrift shop for all your winter clothes! Take free shit off the side of the road!’ I think I just underestimated how expensive life is, and how the extra parts of my budget (like lavishly decorated spaces) were going to be cut down, even if only temporarily.” — Sabrina
Image via Unsplash