Friday, July 07, 2006

Letter to the Recent Grads in My Life

I got an email from a friend a few weeks ago, and in typical despotic fashion, I neglected to respond to it for no good reason. I kept re-reading it in my inbox, wondering what I could say beyond the cliches. I doubt I have much, but I'll share it with her and with all my recently-graduated buddies. It's much overdue, but no less heartfelt.

Congratulations, lads and lassies! You've made it throught the gauntlet, the four-year sleepover, the non-stop cram session of undergraduate residence colleges. And now it's been over for over a month and you're staring down the barrel of some serious angst and disappointment. I know the feeling.

No one talks about how emotionally and intellectually challenging your last year can be, and they give your entrance into the Real World a passing "there'll be changes." You're figuring out your priorities, your job expectations, your changing friendships. Maybe you're feeling a tinge scholastically burned out and still headed for graduate/professional schools. Maybe you're headed into work and an apartment and the whole gig. Maybe you're going back to Mom and Dad's until you make enough money to move up in the world. Maybe you want a mix of all three and you're not sure in what proportion and which to pour in first. Maybe you can't make up your mind, and it makes you feel like there's something wrong with you.

I remember being there. I wasn't single but it was no less lonely. In some ways it was harder to think of my life while having to factor in his; the first was exhausting enough, how was I ever going get his-'n-hers to mesh? I was terrified of missing a bill payment deadline. I was sure that I was going to get fired for tiny mistakes. Most of all, I was sure the charade of my maturity would be found out and someone would blow the whistle on my obvious incapacity to be a Real Adult in the Real World.

Yeah, I remember. But it's fuzzier now, because, thankfully, things get better. The fear and uncertainty fade into a rhythm in which bills are paid, groceries are purchased, plans are formed and executed. It'll get better, loves. I woke up yesterday and realized that I was doing well. My room still looked like a couple of mall boutiques had puked in it, the dishes hadn't been done since the night before, and I was running up on a deadline to pay the cable modem bill, but I would get those things done. I was paying down a mortgage and some student loans and I was making headway. I wasn't so terrified by the "What's for dinner?" question. My attitude about daily battles really had changed. I tried to be a good long-distance friend. I worked hard on my relationship with my husband. I thought and prayed and laughed and didn't feel like constantly scrutinizing myself.

A lot of my early post-collegiate days where worse because of my depression. Not helping matters was the fact that Hubster and I moved to a new area with few friends while our marriage was brand new. As an added bonus to this extrovert, I worked from home without a workmate support system. But I have a feeling that many of you feel a little down even if your circumstances are different. I've talked to lots of friends that said their first few months out of school weren't particularly pleasant to them. So if you're feeling that angst and disappointment, remember we were all there, and we've all gotten out on the other side. And follow that famous advice: "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."

Seriously, as that song plays on a loop in your head, remember to relish the things you DO love about your circumstances. Maybe you don't mind living with your parents because your mom makes excellent cookies which she serves with milk and a listening ear. Maybe your apartment is devoid of furniture, but you enjoy the lack of clutter. Maybe your morning coffee is about the best part of your day, but MAN, IS IT GOOD. Relish, peeps, it's not just for hotdogs anymore. Soon you'll meet people you enjoy and fill your evenings with dinners and conversation. Soon you'll have your own place, and your stereo will play your favorite songs and your thermostat will be set your body's comfort. Soon you'll find a church that fills you up for the week. Soon you'll fix something about your station, and it won't mirror the emotionally-challenging and intellectually-engaging season of college, but it'll be good.

Until then, feel free to be angry and disappointed, but don't let it stop you. You'll miss out on the rest of the life.

Stop and smell these.


Don Quixote said...

What a great post! I remember going through many of those feelings back when I got out of college. Of course, my problems were intensified, what with dodging the dinosaurs and all...

In any event, you are right. Things do get better. Change is always tough, and real life is a BIG change from the "four-year sleepover." But as those days faded over the distance of time for me, I realized that they were NOT my best days. My best days are now. Yours are too, my dear.

Anonymous said...

So what I needed to read right now, friend. I am due to send you an update email sometime post-graduation has been really crazy, and is about to get even crazier in the upcoming weeks. Thanks for sharing your are a wise, wise woman. :)